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Non-EU nurse visa applications rocket 209% in 12 months


Visa applications for nurses from outside the European Union and Scandinavia to work in the UK soared by more than 200% in a year.

In addition, the majority of 4,000 rejected non-EU visa applications since June 2015 have been nurses, the Migration Advisory Committee has said.

The committee’s figures show the number of applications for restricted certificates of sponsorship, which are needed to employ a nurse from outside the EU, increased by 209% between April to July 2014 and April to July 2015.

“I am concerned there may be a view that we can fix the nursing shortage in a matter of weeks or months when it will take a number of years”

Howard Catton

Overall, the number of applications rose from 733 in April to July 2014 to 2,264 in the same period this year.

The increase is evidence of the desperation by some health and social care providers to plug gaps in the UK nursing workforce, which has seen NHS trusts forced to recruit thousands of overseas nurses in recent years.

The committee document, published as part of a consultation on whether to include nursing on the government’s shortage occupation list, shows nursing has disproportionately suffered because of monthly limits on immigration numbers.

The report said: “Nursing is the occupation most heavily affected by the monthly allocation limit being reached… the majority of the 4,000 rejected applications since June 2015 have been for nursing [restricted certificates of sponsorship].”

Howard Catton

Howard Catton

Howard Catton: ‘The way the immigration rules have been applied have strangled that supply line’

It said the monthly limit had been reached in each of the last five months since June.

In 2014 there were almost 2,900 certificates in use for nurses. The committee said this “suggests that measures being taken to reduce reliance on migrant nurses are not yet having an effect”.

Royal College of Nursing policy director Howard Catton said there was clear evidence of a “significant shortage” of nurses in the UK, adding that overseas recruitment was an “absolutely critical supply line to help us meet patient care demands”.

He said: “The way the immigration rules have been applied have strangled that supply line.

“I am concerned that the decision to put nurses on the shortage occupation list is up for review in February and I am concerned that there may be a view from some, in relation to the broader politics, that we can fix the nursing shortage in a matter of weeks or months when I think it will take a number of years,” he added.

Last month the home secretary ordered the Migration Advisory Committee to reverse an earlier decision not to add nursing to the UK’s shortage occupation list, which had led to many visas being delayed or cancelled during the summer.

The original decision had also left non-EU nurses earning less than £35,000 a year who have been in the UK for six years at risk of being forced to leave.

Theresa May added nursing to the shortage list but asked the committee to review whether this should continue and report back to the government in February.

In the consultation document, the committee said: “Although the data indicates an increase in demand for nurses, the MAC stresses to partners that this is not in itself sufficient evidence of a shortage of nurses. The MAC is keen to explore whether this increase in demand is occurring as a result of employers not adequately exploring the alternatives to bringing in nurses from outside the [European Economic Area].

“These can include expanding recruitment from within the EEA, instituting measures to improve retention of nurses, and encouraging those who have left the profession to return to it,” it said. ”Over the longer term, another alternative would be to increase the domestic supply of nurses through increased numbers of training places, for example.”

In the past two years thousands of nurses have been recruited from within Europe. Health Education England has increased nurse training places and launched a campaign to attract people back to the profession.

The consultation period runs until 12pm on 31 December.


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Readers' comments (5)

  • Here's a good British nurses better, to encourage long term employement and recruitment , rather than pandering to private companies hoping to increase their profits by saturating the nurse population with non-European immigrants.

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  • What shortage!! I am a qualified nurse with 15 years post-registration experience, ten of which was spent in the NHS. After moving out of London for family reasons, I have been unable to secure a position in the NHS in Scotland, and have been surviving on scraps of agency work in care homes for the past five years now. I also know of many other well qualified nurses who have been unable to obtain work in the NHS.
    Rather than recruiting from abroad, perhaps the NHS should consider recruiting from within the UK first of all. Surely recruiting UK nurses, running return to practice courses, and offering flexible working hours (not 37.5 hrs a week inflexible internal rotation) is a far cheaper option than recruiting from overseas.

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  • HCSW

    There was never any shortage of nurses in The UK. There are issues with the pay and working conditions, but allof the shifts I have worked as an HCA were ALWAYS covered.

    Money really does miracles, some of the RGNs were driving nearly 200 miles just to work on my ward. They were generously paid and worked well.

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  • There is NOT a shortage of nurses within the UK; they may not be active in the NHS at the moment, but then, the Government does nothing to encourage from within the UK as a priority.

    Pay them a decent RPI indexed salary, treat them with respect, you will be surprised at the response.

    The situation has been manipulated by the government and the Conservatives, to clear the way for the privatisation, sponsored by big business, primarily American and preparation for the implementation of TTIP.

    For me, I have had enough, I am leaving the nursing and moving abroad. Will the last English speaking person leaving, please turn out the lights.

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  • Western Australia the largest state in Australia and most remote in comparison has so many UK nurses here it is called the NHS of Australia. They emmigrate here for pay and lifestyle seems the common rhetoric.

    Now Australia is heading for a recession after seemingly being immune to the GFC. Furthet a drop in our currency against the sterling and US dollar has seen pay in the UK in real terms become attractive once more so some expats are returning home.

    I mention this as Australia pays nurses very well but the cost of living and housing, either rented or owned is very very expensive.

    Now Australia produces a very healthy, in fact too many as there is no cap on university places, amount of nursing graduates but they are unable to secure work and now working in much lesser health roles such as support or assistant health workers

    Part of the problem is that it is relatively easy to study to be a nurse in Australia in a 3 year degree. Some UK nurses comment our skill set after training is woeful compared to UK grads but I have no research to support that. But secondly because it pays well and is not difficult to achieve registration if you do the 3 years study many new arrivals who are not citizens use this qualification to get permanent redidency and citizenship. Again this is not a problem but an observation that it has contributed to over supply of grad nurses.

    Now I say this because by taking so many non-locally trained nurses Australia has benefitted from NHS quality of training but now we have very few career opportunities for some of the local nursing workforce over their careers but also we have many thousands whom cant start their careers. This compounded as the acerage age of nurses in australia is in the mid 50's, so the previous issues have created macro succession plan issues of skilling nurses in time for post WW2 generation departing the workforce.

    I am not sure if our experience and the above reflections will inform as to pit falls but I hope these workforce issues do not get mirrored in other country health services by governments who treat nursing as a deployable international workforce with standard skill sets.

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