COVID-19: give international nurses the right to remain, urges RCN

As the UK celebrates Windrush Day, college calls for recognition of overseas nurses’ contribution

International  nurses have been integral to the NHS' response to COVID-19 Picture: Neil O'Connor

International nurses who have worked during the COVID-19 pandemic should be granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK, the RCN said as the country celebrated Windrush Day.

The college called on the government to extend the courtesy to all overseas health and care workers, their dependents and immediate family living in the UK, without requiring them to pay fees or take tests.

UK celebrates the Caribbean migrants who came to help rebuild the country after the war

International nurses, who account for more than 10% of the country’s 660,213 registered nurses, must wait five years before they can apply for indefinite leave to remain.

The Empire Windrush arrives at
Tilbury in 1948 Picture: Alamy

Windrush Day celebrates the arrival in 1948 of the first Caribbean migrants invited here by the government to help rebuild Britain after the Second World War. Many of those that followed became nurses and midwives working in the newly-formed NHS.    

RCN general secretary Donna Kinnair said: ‘The best way to honour the legacy of Windrush Day is to ensure no nurse or health and care worker who trained overseas and helped in this pandemic feels alien in this country.’

Recognise international nurses’ vital work during the COVID-19 pandemic

Professor Kinnair added that granting indefinite leave to remain to international health and care workers should be ‘instinctive’.

‘The services and support that they provide, though brought to the fore through this pandemic, have always been essential. They are, and always will be, key workers.’

No direct response to the RCN’s request

A Home Office spokesperson said the government was incredibly grateful for the hard work health and care workers continue to do in the fight against coronavirus, but did not directly respond to the RCN's call.

‘Right across the immigration system we are supporting front-line NHS and other eligible health and care workers, introducing free one-year visa extensions for key health workers, bringing in an exemption from the immigration health surcharge and expanding the bereavement scheme.’

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