New Royal College of Nursing research reveals that changes to immigration rules will risk intensifying the severe shortage of nurses in the UK, compromising patient safety as well as costing the health service millions…reports Asian Lite.
Under the new rules, people from outside the European Economic Area [EEA] must be earning £35,000 or more before they are allowed to stay in the UK after six years. These rules will force many nurses to return to their home countries, leaving health services with nothing to show for the millions of pounds spent on recruiting them. The effects of the new rules will start being felt in 2017.
The RCN has calculated that up to 3,365 nurses currently working in the UK will potentially be affected and estimates that it will have cost the NHS £20.19 million to recruit them, money that will have been wasted if they are forced to leave the UK.
RCN says that the figures for future years are even more worrying, particularly if overseas recruitment continues to rise as a result of a shortage of home-grown nurses and a crackdown on agency nurse spending.
If international recruitment stays the same as it is now, by 2020 the number of nurses affected by the threshold will be 6,620, employed at a cost of £39.7 million. If workforce pressures force a higher rate of international recruitment, the number of nurses affected could be 29,755, costing over £178.5 million to recruit.
Spending vast amounts of money on recruiting overseas nurses who will only be in the health system for a short period of time is a waste of valuable time and resources, says a RCN press release.
The RCN calls on the Westminster Government to add nursing to the list of shortage occupations and to reconsider the £35,000 salary threshold. The Government must also take urgent steps to increase the number of UK nurse training places. This will reduce the current over-reliance on overseas recruitment in the longer term.
RCN Chief Executive & General Secretary Dr Peter Carter said: “Due to cuts to nurse training places, employers are being forced into relying on overseas recruitment, as well as temporary staff, just to provide safe staffing. A cap on agency spending will make one of these options more difficult, and these immigration rules will limit the other.