Around 1000 nurses from outside of the European Union have been rejected to date by the Home Office with a further 1000 nurses expected to apply to work in the UK in the next 6 months. NHS Employers warns that immigration rules are compromising patient safety, cost controls and leaving a shortage of nurses and doctors at a crucial time.
If NHS Trusts are not able to recruit overseas nurses there is a risk that clinical services will be compromised especially in the coming winter months when demand for care is highest. This could lead to delays for patients, their families and risks operations being cancelled and treatments being delayed. Figures from NHS England show there is increasing demand on the NHS to meet patient need at a time when there is a nursing shortage in the UK. Trusts need to recruit large numbers of nurses from outside of the EU to provide a sustainable workforce in the NHS.
While plans are in place to train more nurses in the UK, it takes four years to commission and deliver the training so we will not see the benefit until 2017 at the earliest. In the meantime, the NHS’ priority must be to ensure that there is sufficient staffing to deliver good patient care in hospitals across the country. The NHS values migrant doctors and nurses who have contributed a significant amount to the way we deliver care to our patients.
NHS Employers has written to the Home Secretary Theresa May to raise these concerns and is keen to be helpful to the Home Office’s policy implementation in these and related issues. The letter is signed and supported by many trusts across England and co-signatories include Sir Robert Naylor (UCLH), Sir Len Fenwick (Newcastle) and Sir Andrew Cash (Sheffield).
Danny Mortimer, Chief Executive of NHS Employers, said:
“Hospitals strive constantly to deliver the same high standard of care to patients amid rising demands. Even with Government commitment to additional training places for nurses and a focus on retention, we need to employ staff from outside the EU to meet current demand for staff. Due to the high demand for immigration certificates in June and July, for example, all of the applications for nurses were rejected. Whilst there was some improvement in August, with 200 certificates being issued there remains significant numbers of outstanding applications for entry to the UK to take up nursing posts in our hospitals. If Trusts are unable to employ these nurses it will impact on their ability to meet safe staffing levels and support the effective provision of services particularly in the winter months.
“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.”