The nursing profession has been temporarily added to the shortage occupation list by home secretary Theresa May, after nursing organisations warned that new immigration rules could have a catastrophic effect on the NHS.
Under the new rules, non-EU workers in the UK will be forced to leave the country if they are not earning over £35,000 after six years. Professions on the occupation shortage list, such as surgeons, engineers, ballet dancers, and now nurses, are exempt from these rules. ‘This reversal is a real victory for nurses, the health service and most of all patients,’ said Janet Davies, chief executive of the RCN. ‘Since the RCN first raised this issue and lobbied for a change to the immigration rules, a consensus has formed across the health service that cutting the supply of overseas nurses risked patient care.’
The previous decision to leave nursing off the shortage occupation list provoked controversy, with many critics suggesting that the move would see large numbers of skilled nurses forced out of the NHS. The RCN estimated that nearly 30,000 nurses could have been required to leave the UK by 2020, costing the NHS as much as £175.8 million. Ms Davies added: ‘The Government must now extend this common sense approach to the issue of training and retaining more nurses in the long-term and significantly increasing student nurse training places so that patients in the UK are no longer at the mercy of global workforce trends.’
The Migration Advisory Committee, which controls the shortage occupation list, will now conduct a review of nurse supply and demand to determine whether nursing should be included on the list permanently. They are expected to report to the Home Office in February 2016.