A planned immigration cap could force the NHS to train more specialist nurses, a workforce expert has told Nursing Times.
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The government is proposing to limit the number of British visas available for non-EU migrants with skills on the shortage occupation list, which includes specialist theatre and neonatal intensive care nurses.
National Nursing Research Unit director Peter Griffiths said this put the onus on the NHS to solve any shortages by training its own staff, rather than recruiting from abroad. He told Nursing Times some areas, such as theatre nursing, were experiencing shortages because they were no longer part of the undergraduate curriculum, so few students experienced the work during placements.
He said: “There’s a generally recognised tendency that people are, by and large, more likely to consider going into a particular area if they have some experience of it.”
Placements should be more informed by the future needs of the workforce, he added.
The cap is part of a government drive to reduce net immigration to 1990s levels.
A consultation paper says employers must exhaust “every reasonable avenue” to recruit workers already resident in the UK before looking overseas, and demonstrate a “practical commitment to upskilling British workers”.
HCL locum agency executive vice chair Kate Bleasdale agreed that more nurses must be trained for roles in special care baby units, theatres, intensive care and paediatrics.
She warned the NHS would struggle under the immigration cap as it would “not take into account the healthcare needs of different regions, or the overall rising demand”.