The government has announced it will lift immigration controls on nurses working in the UK, in a bid to ease pressure on the NHS.
Nursing will also temporarily be added to the shortage occupation list, while the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) conducts a review into whether it should continue in the long-term, reports the CIPD.
The changes mean that people from outside of the European Economic Area (EEA), applying for nursing roles in the UK, will now have their applications prioritised.
Non-EU nurses, earning less than £35,000 after being in the UK for six years, will also no longer have to leave the country from April 2016, following the government’s rethink.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said the changes aim to help ease the pressure on the NHS, which is facing a desperate shortage of nurses and increasing restrictions on the use of agency staff.
Various industry bodies have campaigned to relax the stringent rules, which have seen thousands of applications from foreign nurses rejected.
Last month, Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers said in an open letter to home secretary Theresa May that the NHS “needed” to employ staff from outside the EU to meet current demand, but immigration laws were proving counterproductive.
According to stats from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), demand for qualified nurses increased by 21,000 in 2014.
Janet Davies, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN, said: “This reversal is a real victory for nurses, the health service and most of all patients.
“The government must now extend this common sense approach to the issue of training and retaining more nurses in the long-term and significantly increasing student nurse training places so that patients in the UK are no longer at the mercy of global workforce trends,” she added.