Nurses and Health Care workers could be forced to leave UK under migrant salary rules

Monday, June 8, 2015

A new pay threshold for migrant workers introduced in 2011 means that people from outside of the European Economic Area (EEA) will have to leave the UK after six years if they are not earning at least £35,000. This means that healthcare workers and nurses from outside the EEA could be forced to return home in 2017 under these changes.

The RCN published research on Monday 22nd June, which looked at the impact of these immigration rules on Nurses in the UK. They found that up to 3,365 foreign nurses could be forced to return home in 2017 under changes to immigration rules and by 2020 this figure could double to 6,620, which could mean a potential waste of nearly £40m when all the costs of recruitment are taken into account.

The RCN general secretary Peter Carter said most nurses earn "nowhere near" £35,000, with statistics from Oxford University’s Migration Observatory suggesting that the median salary was closer to £25,000.

Carter said, "The immigration rules for health care workers will cause chaos for the NHS and other care services,” he said.

“At a time when demand is increasing, the UK is perversely making it harder to employ staff from overseas. The NHS has spent millions hiring nurses from overseas in order to provide safe staffing levels. These rules will mean that money has just been thrown down the drain."

"The UK will be sending away nurses who have contributed to the health service for six years. Losing their skills and knowledge and then having to start the cycle again and recruit to replace them is completely illogical.

“Without a change to these immigration rules the NHS will continue to pay millions of pounds to temporarily rent nurses from overseas,” he added.

A spokesman for the Home Office said as the cut-off date for the new rules was set in 2011, employers had “time to prepare for the possibility their non-EEA workers may not meet the required salary threshold to remain in the UK permanently”.

But Carter added that the “global nursing shortage” would make government plans for a seven-day NHS service in the UK “unsustainable”.

"The only way for the UK to regain control over its own health service workforce is by training more nurses. 37,000 potential nursing students were turned away last year so there are people out there who want to embark on a nursing career,” he said.

The RCN is calling on the government to add nursing to the list of shortage occupations and to reconsider the £35,000 salary threshold. The RCN have asked the Government during a House of Lords debate, for a response today and you can read the debate here:

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