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New overseas nurse rules will 'cause chaos' for NHS


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”

Peter Carter

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.”


Readers' comments (14)

  • Tackle the reasons we're having to recruit overseas Nurses? Why don't we have more homegrown Nurses? I know there's a high drop-out rate due to people having to travel miles for a placement due to a lack of mentors and placements local to universities. That's just compounded with low student loans, so having to work extra hours at another job or two to make ends meet then having to move into a B&B when on placement possibly away from family and friends for several months.

    Then there's the work, why should a Nurse have to be able to write an academic essay? As long as it is understood there shouldn't be an issue. There are movements (Even in Oxbridge the home of academia) that are moving towards more relatable colloquial styles of essay writing as it involves the reader more and opens up the essay for consumption by a wider audience, Joe Bloggs from the local pub less likely to read a academic style essay on the latest ways to stay healthy and therefore out of Hospital than one that is written that speaks to him as a person rather than floating around thinking it's more than it is. I find it much easier on placement I can fill out all the forms and charts for patients with no issue there is never a need for the academic writings.

    Spent nearly 3 months learning how to reflective think and write... although important when reflecting on a patient and writing their notes there were people who dropped out due to lack of feeling the course was meaty enough.

    As for clinical skills I was on ward placement and was taught by my mentor how to do things like catheters and ASEPTIC then a month later have a clinical skills lab where I'm again taught these things I've been doing daily for the past month. Structure certainly needs to be looked at... maybe even introduce a foundation year for those who need to be brought upto spec.

    Lastly, a programme for HCA's to become registered Nurses needs to be created... quite a few HCA's I've met are as good if not better than nurses I've known. It's a waste of good manpower leaving these people to tidying up patients areas and making beds.

    Overseas Nurses were meant to be a stop-gap solution while the recruitment and training of new nurses was addressed... unfortunately a bean counter at the time saw it was simply cheaper to keep them on not looking that a bandage isn't going to keep a leg that's falling off attached.

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  • The financial figures are skewed for headline impact value. The "cost" of recruiting internationally needs to be offset by the cost of UK/EU recruitment (it's not free!), plus the rapid recoup/win from having a permanent employee versus using agency.

    That said - this IS a staffing disaster. How about a referendum to ask the public: would you rather have overseas nurses or an even more broken NHS?

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  • 22 June 2015

    Time, time and time again will tell us. When man interferes in a culture of a civilization disaster will follow be it spreading a disease in the local population which is foreign to them. In the 14th century, the Spanish conquistadors who went to the new world brought also with them diseases that wipe out the entire Incan population.

    Compare and contrast, todays situation. Politicians interfering in the National Health Service which will bring about the same staffing crisis in 2000. This time, the legislation that the parliament mandated: A salary of at least GBP 35, 000 after 5 years for overseas nurses to live and remain in the UK.

    Lets examine some facts. The 1% pay rise for NHS staff is not enough for the annual increase in basic consumer goods such as food items, rent, petrol, electric, water, etc.

    The parliament should legislate a Law basing the pay rise of NHS registred nurses and midwifes on the annual inflation rate. Instead of this silly legislation requirement for overseas nurses and midwifes. Whoever supported and sponsored this law has a heavily business vested interest in the locum, nursing agencies, rental accomodations, supermarket or chain of food stores and fast food restaurants industry.

    As long as there is Greed for money, power and maintaining their establish status quo. The NHS funds will be at the mercy of this wolves in sheeps clothing. Beware of their deceptions, trickery and the art of puppetry.

    Member of the public, I say to you open your eyes, sooner or later the NHS will cease to exist. Protect the NHS from the wolves in sheeps clothing.

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  • If the government are setting this as a minimum after 5 years, it clearly highlights the fact that nurses are drastically underpaid.

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  • If UK have enough homegrown nurses why have to recruit overseas nurses?

    The UK never have enough homegrown nurses, why?

    Good luck to NHS and the new legislation requirement!

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  • I agree completely with Vicky (22-June-2015 8:49pm, however as pay is unlikely to improve in time (if ever), surely we need to introduce exemptions for skills that are required in this country. Having said that - there is no shortage of people wanting to nurse, just a lack of funding for places - however that is unlikely to change in time (if ever) -is there a pattern here?!!

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  • Student nurses have a privilliged financial position compared to other students by not paying University fees and receiving a non-repayable bursary for living expenses. As it's not enough to cover all costs, student nurses also have the facility of working ad-hoc shifts that boost their experience and pay above minimum salary. Then on graduation a job is guaranteed. All this is enviable to University students on other courses, even overseas nurses do not have this in their home countries, when asked.

    I think the NHS is doing a lot to fund home-grown nurses above what other students get and if the general public wants more home-grown nurses then these benefits need challenging for affordability and the limits of student training places opened up more.

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  • There will be an clause added to immigration bill to exempt Nurses

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  • wish I could find a job that pays more then £35k... not many of those around!

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  • Having spoken with a third year student who is about to graduate, just at the weekend. I was surprised when he mentioned that when he calculated his first years pay, including shift differientials etc, he was pleased to find that he would be earning £33,000 a year- as a new grad! I was surprised, and wonder why with 30 years experience I will not be earning anywhere near that. However if this is actually is the case, I think £35 after 6 years is achievable. As I dont work in the NHS, I cant attest to his claims, but I wish him and new grads well!
    However I do beleive the NHS should be paying for more nurse training. My local uni is only able to offer 64 places twice a year - herein lies the problem. We have 4 hospital trusts in the area, with a total of 14 hospitals - all needing nurses- especially as nurses of my age are leaving in droves....4 months and counting for me :)

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