The Royal College of Nursing raise their concerns in response to plans revealed by the Conservative Party to cut migration to the UK from outside the European Economic Area (EEA).
Under this immigration policy, nurses who fail to earn over £35,000 after 6 years of residency in the UK will be deported in a move that will cost around £39.7 million. This policy is part of the wider promise made by David Cameron to cut migration and to prevent the demand for overseas nurses.
Over 3,300 nurses are at risk of losing their jobs, according to the Royal College of Nursing (RCN); a figure they state will increase to 6000 by 2020. Many nurses face losing their jobs at the same time that the government unveiled plans to provide 5000 extra GPs by 2020. This comes at a time when the NHS is being faced with chronic staff shortages which the chair of the British Medical Association (BMA), Dr Mark Potter outlined in his speech at the BMA annual meeting this week.
Due to take effect from April 2016, Home Secretary Theresa May states that this immigration policy will, “ensure that only the brightest and the best remain permanently” in the NHS. “The Government wants to reduce the demand for migrant labour. We changed the settlement rules in 2011 to break the link between coming to work in the UK and staying here permanently,” according to the Home Office in a report by the Independent.
However, there has been opposition to this policy from a number of organisations, who stress the value of migrant workers in helping the NHS maintain their level of service. General Secretary of the RCN Dr Peter Carter believes, "the immigration rules will cause chaos for the NHS and other care services”, as reported by the BBC. “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.”
Fears of the effects of immigration policies on migrant NHS workers has been stated by Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper who told the Independent that the government “have not provided enough training places for nurses here in Britain, and now they want to send away the fully trained nurses who have been working here for many years even though the local NHS want them to stay, and there are no local staff to fill the gap.”
Migrant Voice spoke to Oxford Migration Observatory who have highlighted that the NHS have always relied on migrant workers, and this immigration policy may not entirely result in the loss of these workers because the numbers are dependent on the level of trained British nurses. However, instead Oxford Migration Observatory note that this policy may encourage a trend towards only hiring nurses from the EU, which has already been taking places in hospitals around the country.
However, should the availability of nurses now come down to how well paid nurses are in this country? Does it make sense for thousands of nurses trained in the UK to lose their jobs?
Dave Dawes, of Central Manchester RCN branch told Nursing Times that “We need to fight this agenda and we need to make a really strong stand as all nurses are valuable members of our nursing family…
“They are the glue holding the NHS together, and we should fight for their pay, their conditions and their right to work in the UK.”