Skilled
foreign nurses
forced to leave UK

Up to 3,365 nurses from outside the European Economic Area may be forced to leave the UK in 2017, following changes to the UK immigration rules in 2011.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has warned that, due to a pay threshold for migrant workers introduced in 2011 which stipulates that nurses from outside the EU must leave the UK after six years if they are not earning at least £35,000, many nurses from overseas will soon be forced to leave the country.

RCN general secretary Peter Carter has stated that 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.

The UK nursing labour market has struggled both in recruiting and retaining home-grown talent in recent years. This ongoing shortage of nurses in the UK has forced the NHS and other healthcare providers to look abroad in order to maintain safe staffing levels across the country.

Recruiting from overseas, however, is a costly business and current rules are soon to make it even more expensive. According to current immigration law, up to 3,365 nurses may have to leave the UK by 2017 as they are unlikely to meet the salary threshold with just over double that number leaving by 2020 for the very same reason.

Once all the costs of recruitment are taken into account, this could mean a potential waste of nearly £40 million for health services nationwide.

‘Without a change to these immigration rules the NHS will continue to pay millions of pounds to temporarily rent nurses from overseas. 

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 […] recruit to replace them is illogical.’ – Peter Carter, RCN General Secretary

The RCN is calling on the government to add nursing to the list of shortage occupations and to reconsider the £35,000 salary threshold.

In the meantime, however, sponsors of skilled foreign nurses are advised to plan ahead should any of their migrant staff be approaching the end of their six-year stay in the UK.

Contact Smith Stone Walters for more information, your UK immigration specialist.

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