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EU rules threaten staff shortages

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New restrictions on recruiting care home workers and midwives from outside the EU will cause staff shortages, warn stakeholder groups.

Under a new Home Office list of shortage occupations, providers will only be able to recruit senior non-EU care home staff and with a minimum wage of £8.80 per hour.

Karen Didovich, RCN senior employment relations adviser, said the decision would add to a growing recruitment crisis.

‘Many nurses in care homes are older than those elsewhere and will be retiring soon. Care homes are going to find it difficult to recruit into posts,’ she said.

‘The care home sector has not been as attractive to UK-trained nurses. If we get shortages in the care home sector, what we could end up seeing is a return to bed-blocking in the NHS,’ she added.

Frank Ursell, chief executive officer of the Registered Nursing Homes Association, said that some homes may be forced to close.

‘For some people, this will be the final straw – those people already struggling with capacity levels,’ he said.

The RCM warned that the removal of midwives from the shortage list would exacerbate existing shortages. Some strategic health authorities have shortages in excess of 600 midwives, the college says.

John Skewes, RCM director of employment relations, said: ‘We should not cut off this potential supply of midwives from countries like Australia, New Zealand and Canada, when a number of these other countries are recruiting actively here for UK midwives.

‘Clearly the midwives coming out of training in this country should be getting full-time jobs but there is no sense in cutting off midwives who traditionally have come to this country to practise and have often been the backbone of the service,’ he added.

Specialist theatre, critical care nurses and those who are in posts equivalent to Agenda for Change band 7 or above are deemed to be in shortage after a ruling in August 2006.

Last week an exclusive NT survey of nearly 4,000 nurses revealed that 86% of respondents believed there would be a nursing shortage within the next two years (NT News, 9 September, p3).

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