Prime minister David Cameron has claimed there is a “massive” nurse training programme underway, in response to concerns raised by the Royal College of Nursing about staffing levels.
A report, timed to coincide with the start of the RCN’s annual conference, warned that nurse recruitment will be put under increasing strain in the coming years from new immigration rules.
“We have got a massive training programme for nurses at the moment”
The 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.
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 story was picked up by a number of national newspapers and broadcasters, leading Mr Cameron to be asked about it while on a visit to Runcorn.
In response, he said: “We have got a massive training programme for nurses at the moment, there are something like 8,000 more nurses in the NHS today than when I became prime minister. The training programme will continue.”
The comments are presumably a reference to Health Education England’s existing plans to increase the number of places on nurse education courses.
Mr Cameron added that a key advisory committee had decided earlier this against recommending making it easier to recruit overseas nurses from outside Europe.
“Crucially, we have an organisation called the Migration Advisory Committee and they advise us about which occupations to put on the so-called shortage occupations list, the ones where they fear skills shortages will develop,” he said.
“They haven’t put nursing on that shortage occupation list and I think we should listen to their advice above all,” said the prime minister.