NHS England chief executive calls for rethink on immigration rules affecting nurses

Simon Stevens says 'we need to better “join up the dots” on immigration policy and the NHS'

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens has called for a 'rethink' on immigration rules that could see nurses from outside the EU who earn less than £35,000 deported from the UK.

Mr Stevens spoke out against the government’s immigration policies in a speech at the Institute of Directors in London yesterday. 

He said nurses are baffled that the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has put ballet dancers on a 'shortage occupation' list but not nurses. 

Occupations on the list get priority when workers are permitted to enter the country. 

They are also exempt from legislation stating that non-European Economic Area workers have to leave  if their salary is less than £35,000 after five years working in the UK.

Mr Stevens said: ‘Most nurses struggle to understand why our immigration rules define ballet dancers as a shortage occupation, but not nursing. And most hospitals tell me that the idea that we would seriously consider deporting some of our most experienced and committed nurses solely because they are not earning £35,000 clearly needs a rethink.’

He added that ‘we need to better “join up the dots” on immigration policy and the NHS’. 

NHS Employers and other healthcare organisations including the RCN and Unison recently wrote a joint letter to the MAC urging it to add nursing to the list.  

RCN general secretary Janet Davies said: ‘It is an irrefutable fact that rising demand for health care, a shortage of home grown nurses and new rules limiting the use of agency staff mean the NHS is reliant on overseas recruitment to provide safe care.’ 

A Home Office spokesperson said: ‘Although NHS trusts have been given more than 1,400 certificates of sponsorship for nurses since April this year, more than 600 of the places allocated to them in April and May this year were returned unused.’



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