Changes to immigration rules mean thousands of foreign nurses may have to leave

Up to 3,365 foreign nurses could be forced to return home in 2017 under changes to immigration rules, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) union has warned.

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, reports People Management News.

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.

According to RCN research the number of employees likely to be affected by the rules would double to 6,620 by 2020, which could mean a potential waste of nearly £40m when all the costs of recruitment are taken into account.

Carter said severe cuts to nurse training places and caps on agency spending was “forcing” NHS trusts to recruit from overseas to make up staffing levels in the UK.

“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”.

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