Thousands of the UK’s foreign national NHS nurses could be sent home by 2020 due to the government’s new immigration cap.
David Cameron recently announced plans to make it harder for businesses to bring in skilled employees from outside the European Union to encourage the training and recruitment of British citizens, as well as limit the hiring of lower-paid skilled workers.
The new rules state that anyone from outside the EU Area who earns less than £35,000 per annum after six years in the UK will be forced to return home. This could result in around 7,000 foreign national nurses being sent home in the next few years.
The number of foreign nurses hired in the past five years has tripled. This is due to a lack of “homegrown recruits” and training centres, leading to the NHS looking beyond local shores.
Dr Peter Carter, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), says: “The NHS has spent millions hiring nurses from overseas in order to provide safe staffing levels.” He also commented that the new rules, to be implemented in 2017, would see this spending go to waste.
By sending away nurses who have been involved with the health service for six years the NHS would also lose a huge depth of knowledge and skill.
However, it has been noted that attempts to source and hire nurses from foreign countries were often “ethically dubious and hugely expensive.”
Dr Carter explained that almost every NHS trust in England, as well as a large amount in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, have been and are currently recruiting overseas.
Trusts are said to be spending as much as £12,000 per nurse recruited. Recruitment teams also stay overnight in luxury hotels while sourcing foreign labour. The practice is considered by leaders of the RCN to be “ludicrous, hugely expensive, and labour intensive.”
According to Dr Carter, the cause of these recruitment practices can be attributed to not training and retaining enough UK nurses.
The other problem is that rising staff costs are causing the NHS’ deficit to grow, with a record amount of £3.3 billion being spent on agency workers last year.
While the amount being paid to agencies is considered ridiculous, the NHS would suffer greatly if they lost both overseas and agency workers.
Dr Carter has appealed to the government to either reconsider the £35,000 salary threshold, or to add nursing to the Tier 2 shortage occupations list, which is not covered by the cap.