Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.


Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Immigration cap would 'halve' UK's migrant nurse workforce


The Royal College of Nursing says it has “grave concerns” that a shake up of UK immigration policy could lead to thousands of overseas nurses being forced to leave the UK.

The Home Office announced in February that it would change immigration rules for non European Union workers wanting to settle permanently in the UK. From 2016, skilled temporary workers – classified as tier 2 migrants – will have to earn at least £35,000 before they can apply for permanent residency.

Temporary permission to enter and remain in the UK will be capped at six years, though the rule will not apply to “shortage occupation jobs”, a category which includes specialist nurses.

An impact assessment of the policy change, published on 15 March, reveals that the government believes nearly half of non EU migrant nurses could be affected by the cap. It states: “We estimate 48% of migrant nurses… would be excluded.”

However, the assessment went on to claim the cap was “not expected” to have a significant impact on the nursing labour force because “the volumes prevented from settling are low relative” to the size of the total workforce.

“The likely reduction due to the settlement salary threshold is likely to lie in the hundreds or low thousands, when there are an estimated 698,000 nurses working in the UK,” it said.

But the RCN warned it would result in workforce shortages and future difficulties in attracting overseas nurses.

Chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter said: “It is deeply concerning that it looks like almost half of overseas nurses from outside the EU would not be eligible to qualify to settle in the UK after 2016 as a result of these changes.”


Readers' comments (75)

  • it is true that it will affect the workforce shortage. but it also gives other concern as almost all overseas nurses work more than 36 hours a week and sometimes even 48-54 hours a week and this is bringing more tax to the government. so putting a cap will be a loss for the government. it may be a good thing to reconsider this decision.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Not meaning to be offensive, but with the job situation and many of Uk nationals loosing their jobs (sorry me included)should we be recruiting from other countries. I am reluctantly putting the wheels in motion to work abroad. we also have to look at the situaion regarding the reduction of immigrants being allowed into the country as reduced population will result in less NHs resources being required. I have had the priviledge to work with people from all over the world and admire their courage to work in a foreign land

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Anonymous | 31-Mar-2012 10:38 pm exactly!!!! And why should raising those concerns be offensive? They are not!! There are currently countless nurses qualifying who are struggling to find jobs as nurses, and nurses who are working who want to move into a particular ward/specialist area or want to move hospitals but cant because there are no damn jobs because of moronic job freezes and cuts!!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I for oneam not against the recruitment of nurses outside the EU but at present there are not enough jobs e.g newly qualified nurses have to move far from home to get they first nhs job. As for me I am one of those unfortunate nurses who may have to re-appy for my job as where I work needs to reduce the workforce 20 band fives and 4 band six nurses will probably be lowing their jobs. This is all down to having to save money and reduce beds.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Many nurses leave these shores for better opportunities and a better life elsewhere. Using the same logic as some previous commentators, then Australia, USA, Canada, the gulf states, etc.,etc. should close their doors to UK nurses. Why should they have the choice of working elsewhere, when they are happy to deprive others of that same ambition in the UK?

    And does anyone actually believe that the gaps left by the reduction in non EU staff will result in jobs for UK nurses? Well it won't. The posts will simply disappear. Simples.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Detrimental effects of recruiting hc professionals from other countries sets up a vicious circle and deprivation. recruitment in one country means a shortage in another so they have to then recruit from a third country and so the circle perpetuates.

    However, it has to be remembered that professionals have to be offered the freedom of movement and choice to work in other countries for the purposes of further education, training and experience in their profession which they may not be able to obtain in their own country or for personal or family reasons such as marriage. As in any other group in a globalised world freedom of passage cannot be denied.

    Globalist Analysis > Global Labor
    Beyond the Global Brain Drain: The Global Care Drain

    By Sonya Michel | Wednesday, October 20, 2010

    Jan 17, 2012 - 19:39
    Care drain threatens needy countries
    Image Caption: Experts say incentives are needed to keep health care workers at home (Medicus Mundi Switzerland)

    Related Stories
    Nurses demand higher staff levels
    Review calls for more efficient health system
    Downturn drives Europeans to Switzerland
    Billions sent home from foreign workers’ wages
    by Susan Vogel-Misicka,

    J Public Health Policy. 2011 Nov;32(4):489-98. doi: 10.1057/jphp.2011.43. Epub 2011 Aug 25.
    Care drain: the political making of health worker migration.
    Kaelin L.
    Institute for Ethics and Law in Medicine, University of Vienna, Schenkenstr. 8-10, Vienna 1010, Austria.

    Full article for free viewing


    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • nymous | 1-Apr-2012 10:11 pm I'm sorry but that is a ridiculous argument! I don't think anyone is saying that nurses should not be able to move abroad, and that includes nurses coming here to work, but when there is such a job shortage, surely getting UK nurses jobs FIRST should be a priority (just as it is in other countries like Oz for example!) And we should get rid of this myth that there would be no nursing workforce without foriegn nurses too, as valuable an asset as they are, I'm sure there are enough UK nurses to plug the gaps! But this is a circular argument anyway, because what SHOULD be happening is jobs should be being created so that ALL UK nurses and ALL foreign nurses who want to work here can!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Anonymous | 2-Apr-2012 8:47 am

    'tis a shame you could not make your point more graciously.

    However, you have failed to grasp the point of my post and the full impact of the proposed legislation. There are many non-EU nurses working in this country, who after many years of working here, would be forced to return to their own countries. Thanks for all your care and hard work, now buzz off home. Not a nice way to treat our colleagues.

    Although I didn't mention anything about there being no nursing workforce without foreign nurses, it should be noted that there are many jobs (eg in care of the elderly) being done by foreign nurses because UK nurses, for many years, did not want to do them. There are also some fantastic specialised nurses whose expertise is invaluable to the NHS.

    And let's get rid of the myth that any job shortages are going to be solved by targeting non-EU nurses. They are not. For years, it has been predicted that the intakes of student nurses would far exceed the predicted requirements (even without cuts), and no one listened. As the article states, they seem to be talking hundreds rather than thousands, and of course, no account is taken of the fact that they are individuals.

    I agree with your final point. However, let's open up this debate to the wider argument. ALL NURSES should be standing up to this government and refusing to accept the systematic decimation of the nursing profession and the NHS. That would be much more effective than resorting to the 'Looking after number one and to hell with anyone else' mentality that, judging by some of the posts here, the government has successfully established. They must be delighted.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Anonymous | 2-Apr-2012 6:55 pm
    I have to agree that this government is all about divide and conquer. It appears to be working.
    Interesting and true that there were warnings about numbers being recruited to nurse training which went unheeded. Albeit that this was always going to be temporary issue, with the imminent dramatic increase in the ageing population and ageing nurse population heading towards retirement.
    A recent study on the effect of the 2005 tougher immigration controls on overseas nurses was carried out by The National Nursing Research Unit (NNRU) at King's College in London. Numbers of overseas nurses emigrating to the UK dropped from 10,000-16,000 to 2,000-2,500 each year. The NNRU noted that the UK immigration rules were originally introduced to encourage nurses to stay in their own countries, but "this has not had the anticipated effect of improving source country retention, as increasingly nurses leave the profession to work outside of nursing. In other countries, such as the Philippines and India, nurses continue to migrate but are taking up employment in a new wave of destination countries."
    Now this may be good news to Anonymous | 2-Apr-2012 8:47 am whose own argument is fact-free, but the NNRU made a couple of evidence-based predictions and recommmendations.
    The researchers predicted the UK may need to re-establish overseas recruitment to meet the likely increase in demand for nurses caused by an ageing population. From the report,
    "Tightening up of regulatory and migratory controls to the UK have compromised the 'attractiveness' of the UK as a destination for nurses, and there may be work to be done in the future to convince internationally trained nurses that they are welcome and needed in the UK."
    In 2006, the RCN commisioned a paper by James Buchan and Ian Seccombe of Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh called 'Worlds Apart? The UK and International Nurses'. In both this and the NNRU research, the discriminatory nature of UK policies on overseas health professionals is highlighted. We have a long and sad history of rapid recruitment of overseas nurses (whose training was paid for elsewhere) in this country in times of need, treating them pretty unfairly whilst they are here (check out promotion opportunities, job types and average wages for overseas recruits as compared to UK nurses), and dumping them with indecent haste on the whim of the government of the day. Ironically, we are no longer training enough new nurses to cover the predicted increase in demand expected in the coming decade. No doubt, we will look to our overseas colleagues again for help. And no doubt we will treat them as badly as we have to date.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Immigration cap would 'halve' UK's migrant nurse workforce

    Typical short-sighted policy from the coalition government. Typical knee-jerk reaction from those who do not see the wider picture. Yeah, let's get rid of all these foreigners who are taking up our jobs (the ones we didn't want before and now really want because there is nothing else). As long as you all come back in a few years when the elderly population mushrooms and there won't be enough of us to cope (except a few 68 year old nurses with zimmers, still waiting to retire). We have treated foreign nurses badly in this country since the days we 'welcomed' them from the West Indies and other Caribbean countries (there was a nursing shortage and we really needed them). I honestly don't know why they would wish to nurse in such a hostile environment.

    In the meantime, we continue to enjoy the freedom of being able to nurse in just about any country we wish to (we had an empire once you know).

    Anonymous | 2-Apr-2012 9:04 pm

    ".....government is all about divide and conquer."

    This government is all smoke and mirrors. Divert the attention from its criminal mismangement of the NHS and its staff and blame foreign health professionals for stealing our jobs. Never mind that some of them have had those jobs for many years and contributed to our economy as well as benefitting us with their care and hard work. Mission accomplished. As has been written elsewhere, their jobs will disappear and there will be no gaps to be plugged with UK staff as has misguidedly been assumed.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

View results 10 per page20 per page50 per page

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.