New immigration rules that will force some overseas nurses to leave the country after five years have been blasted as “good old fashioned racism”.
The Royal College of Nursing issued a warning at the start of its annual congress yesterday that nurse recruitment would be put under enormous strain by new rules.
The legislation means nurses from outside the European Economic Area would have to leave after five years if they did not earn £35,000 or more.
“If we can reward experience in a supermarket, my god we should be giving it to our nurses”
A resolution was subsequently debated at the conference calling on the RCN to campaign to get the legislation withdrawn.
Proposing the motion, Sarah Waters, of RCN South Birmingham branch, said it would be impossible to “fill the chasm” left by “our amazing international nurse colleagues”.
She pressed for all nursing professions to be on the shortage occupation list, which is drawn up by the Migration Advisory Committee for the government.
Many nurses agreed, saying that their organisations were recruiting large numbers from Australia, the Philippines and other non-EU countries and wondered how services would cope without them.
Dave Dawes, of Central Manchester branch, said the move was “good old-fashioned racism” and symptomatic of a “right wing agenda”.
He said: “We need to fight this agenda and we need to make a really strong stand as all nurses are valuable members of our nursing family…
“They are the glue holding the NHS together, and we should fight for their pay, their conditions and their right to work in the UK.”
“We need to make a really strong stand as all nurses are valuable members of our nursing family”
Former RCN president Andrea Spyropoulos, from Greater Liverpool and Knowsley branch, said: “What is really telling is that everyone else who has stood up here seems to think it is impossible for any nurse in the UK to earn £35,000 five years after qualification. That’s the disgrace.”
She said she looked up graduate positions at supermarket chain Lidl and discovered they pay £38,000 as a starting salary.
“If we can reward experience in a supermarket, my god we should be giving it to our nurses,” she said.
Others felt it was a “hidden” way to restrict the number of staff working in the NHS, and urged the government to reconsider the number of training places for nurses and invest in student nurse commissions.
The motion was passed by congress members with 99.17% voting in favour.