Nurse recruitment will be under increasing strain in the coming years as new government rules that require overseas workers to earn a minimum salary come into effect, the Royal College of Nursing has claimed.
The new legislation requires migrant workers who have come from outside the European Economic Area to have a salary of at least £35,000 after five years of working in the UK if they want to remain in the country.
But the RCN has claimed the law, which was amended in 2012, means that from 2017 thousands of overseas nurses could be forced to leave the UK and will create “chaos” for the NHS.
“The immigration rules for healthcare workers will cause chaos for the NHS and other care services”
It noted that the £35,000 threshold was equivalent to a nurse being in the middle to upper part of Agenda for Change band 7 and claimed it was likely the majority of workers would not have reached this level of earnings within five years.
In its report on international recruitment, unveiled this week at the union’s annual congress in Bournemouth, the RCN pointed to data from the Nursing and Midwifery Council, which showed that 3,365 nurses registered to work in the UK between April 2011 and March 2015.
All of these nurses were at risk of having to leave the UK from 2017 onwards due to the changes in immigration rules, according to the union. It would result in around £20m being wasted, based on the estimated cost of recruiting more than 3,000 nurses, said the RCN.
A shortage of home-grown nurses and the government’s new measures to limit spending on agency workers meant overseas recruitment was expected to increase, which could lead to hundreds of millions of pounds being spent on nurses that were unable to remain in the UK, added the report.
Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN, said: “The immigration rules for healthcare workers will cause chaos for the NHS and other care services. At a time when demand is increasing, the UK is perversely making it harder to employ staff from overseas.”
“NHS trusts are being asked to provide safe staffing with both hands tied behind their backs,” he said. “Without a change to these immigration rules the NHS will continue to pay millions of pounds to temporarily rent nurses from overseas.”
He added: “There are clear signs of a global nursing shortage, meaning an ongoing reliance on overseas recruitment is not just unreliable but unsustainable.”