UK eases immigration norms for nurses
Posted on October 27, 2015
In what will come as a big relief to Indian nurses working in Britain, the government has included nursing as a profession in shortage occupation list.
This means that the 30,000 overseas nurses who faced the axe under new immigration rules, including thousands from India, would not be thrown out of UK.
Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) had earlier announced that according to new rules that were set to come into practice, a nurse can stay in the UK only if she or he earns a minimum of £35,000 a year – which is the salary of a senior nurse.
This meant that majority of nurses would not reach this pay scale for the next six years and hence would have to pack up and leave Britain.
In a dramatic U-turn, the government has now announced temporary changes to restrictions on nurse recruitment from outside European Economic Area to ensure safe staffing levels across the NHS.
UK plans to process applications from non-EU trained nurses within 70 days.
It said, “Nurses will be added to the government’s shortage occupation list on an interim basis. This means nurses from outside the EEA that apply to work in the UK will have their applications for nursing posts prioritized.”
The announcement however will not make India happy.
The Union health ministry in Delhi was actually hoping to benefit from UK’s new immigration policy and attract returning nurses with jobs.
The ministry was contemplating recruiting these nurses on contractual basis under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) on a much higher salary than what their counterparts were getting in government hospitals.
India has a shortage of 2.4 million nurses.
The new immigration policy in UK which intended to cap the number of migrants living in UK would have led to 7,000 overseas nurses being sent back to India by 2020.
The latest U-turn by Britain gives India another reason to worry. Nurses working in Indian hospitals would now aim to get a job in UK, which is all set to engage nurses in a major recruiting drive around the world, mainly targeting India where nursing standards are very high.
UK is also beginning a campaign to get experienced nurses who’ve left the profession back to work.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said, “Safe staffing across all our hospitals and care homes is our top priority. The temporary changes will ensure the NHS has the nurses it needs to deliver the highest standards of care without having to rely on rip-off staffing agencies that cost the taxpayer billions of pounds a year.”
Health Education England has already increased nurse training places by 14% over the last two years and is forecasting that more than 23,000 additional nurses will be in place by 2019.
In a recent interview to TOI, CK Mishra, additional secretary in India’s health ministry had said, “Britain’s loss will be our gain. We have a lot of space to absorb Indian nurses planning to return to India due to new immigration rules in UK. We will very soon become proactive in getting them back to India.”
“If they work under the NRHM, we can play around with their salaries and give them a decent pay,” Mishra added.
Britain’s independent Migration Advisory Committee will review this relaxation on nurse recruitment from outside the EU and give further evidence to the government by February 2016.
The immigration policy that was to come into force in UK would have seen 3,365 nurses leaving the country from 2017. It would have been the direct result of the 2012 immigration changes.