Thousands of nurses were denied permission to work in the UK last year an FOI request from the Royal of College of Nursing (RCN) has revealed.
This is despite many NHS Trusts and community providers struggling with a shortage of nursing staff.
Janet Davies, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN, said the figures show that when nursing is not recognised as an occupation in shortage many trusts are unable to recruit enough nurses, which could have an impact on patient care.
‘There is still a workforce crisis in the NHS, and until enough nurses are trained in the UK, health organisations still need to be able to recruit nurses from overseas,’ she said. ‘With the cap on spending on agency nurses now in effect, this is more urgent than ever.’
When an organisation recruits a nurse from outside the European Economic Area they must apply for a Certificate of Sponsorship. Until November last year, nurses were not on the shortage occupation list and as a result the number of certificates was limited.
The statistics, obtained by the RCN to the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), revealed that 2341 applications by Trusts for Certificate of Sponsorship were refused between April and November 2015.
Nursing was temporarily placed on the shortage occupation list in November 2015, after home secretary Theresa May wrote to the MAC. She requested that they carry out a consultation on whether nursing should remain on the list based on evidence from the RCN and the introduction of seven day services. The MAC is due to report on its analysis on 15 February.
The RCN has said that they are highlighting these figures ahead of the MAC’s final recommendation as a reminder of the difficulties that Trusts and other health organisations face, and the potential impact on patient care when nursing is not on the list.
The NHS Employers organisation has previously written to the MAC to place nurses on the occupation shortage list. ‘We know there are plans to train more nurses in the UK but it takes four years to deliver the training so we will not see the benefit until 2017. We need to ensure that there is sufficient staffing to deliver good patient care in hospitals across the country,’ said Danny Mortimer, the chief executive of NHS Employers.