Concerns have been raised over the impact of immigration rules on trusts ability to hire enough nurses to provide safe care for patients by NHS Employers.
The organisation, as well as the heads of 10 NHS trusts, wrote to Theresa May, the home secretary, urging her to reconsider plans to deport non-EU immigrant workers if they are not earning over £35,000 after five years of residence in the UK. NHS Employers has said that the demand for nurses exceeds the available supply in the UK, and despite initiatives such as additional training places and return to practice programmes, the gap between supply and demand will not be bridged for some time. This necessitates the need for hiring overseas nurse, it said.
Janet Davies, chief executive of the RCN said: 'NHS Employers have highlighted a situation which is causing a real problem for the health service, and which has previously been identified by the RCN. The current immigration rules are preventing trusts from recruiting the nurses they need and this is compromising patient safety.’
The letter was written after NHS Employers found that many trusts had experienced a large number of rejections for applications of visa certificates to allow overseas nurses to work in the UK. The letter states that using salary as the sole factor in deciding to extend residency for workers was leaving the NHS at a disadvantage.
Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, said: 'Non-EU nurses are invaluable to the NHS. Whilst we are experiencing a mismatch between supply and demand we are asking that this is recognised and that nursing be placed on the shortage occupation list for the next two years.'
Ms Davies added: ‘The long term solution to this problem is to ensure more nurses are being trained in the UK to meet demand, but until then trusts must be able to recruit the nurses they need from overseas. Placing nurses on the shortage occupation list is a matter of patient safety.’