Nurses ‘will be deported’ under new visa rules
Posted on June 23, 2015
Thousands of nurses will be deported under new immigration rules which will trigger critical shortages of staff across the NHS, nursing leaders have said.
The chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said the rules – under which immigrants are sent home after six years if they do not earn enough – could increase NHS spending on overseas recruitment.
Dr Peter Carter said short-staffed hospitals could find themselves hunting abroad for workers even more often, to replace those who were sent home. He said the rules were “illogical” and would cause waste and chaos, increasing spending on overseas nurses, who would need to be constantly replaced.
“The NHS has spent millions hiring nurses from overseas in order to provide safe staffing levels,” he said. “These rules will mean that money has just been thrown down the drain.
“The UK will be sending away nurses who have contributed to the health service for six years. Losing their skills and knowledge and then having to start the cycle again and recruit to replace them is completely illogical.”
If workforce pressures force a still higher rate of international recruitment, as many as 30,000 nurses could face being sent home, by 2020.
In recent years, Britain has become heavily dependent on overseas nurses. Almost one in three new nurses recruited in the last year came from abroad – a tripling of the proportion within five years. Nurse leaders say a lack of homegrown recruits, because there are not enough training places, means NHS trusts have had little choice but to trawl the globe for staff.
More than three-quarters did so in 2013-14, with almost 6,000 foreign nurses recruited, figures show.
Under the new migration cap, due to be introduced in 2017, anyone from outside the European Economic Area who does not earn at least £35,000 after six years here will be forced to return home.
New estimates drawn up by the RCN as its conference opened in Bournemouth today, suggest that could mean 3,365 nurses currently working in the NHS will be deported immediately. On current trends, that figure will reach 6,620 by 2020, the RCN research states.
Many such nurses came here after global recruitment trawls by NHS trusts, which flew out teams of managers to stay in luxury hotels while trying to recruit.
Earlier this year, an investigation by The Daily Telegraph revealed 100 such trips were made last year – a nine-fold rise in just two years.
The RCN research suggests that almost £40m will be wasted on the recruitment costs of the workers who are subsequently sent home by 2020, on current trends.
Rising staff costs are creating a growing deficit in the NHS. Last year a record £3.3bn was spent on agency workers – a rise of one-third in a year. Meanwhile, the number of foreign nurses who registered to work in the UK rose by the same amount.
Earlier this month, the Health Secretary pledged a clampdown on agency spending, with a cap on hourly rates paid for staff, and an overall limit on what trusts spend on temporary workers.
Nurse leaders said that while action was needed to tackle “outrageous” sums being paid via agencies, NHS trusts would be thrown into chaos if they lost both foreign and agency workers.
Dr Carter urged the Government to add nursing to the list of “shortage occupations” that not covered by the cap, or to reconsider the £35,000 salary threshold.