Non-EU worker fee risks adding to staffing crisis, warns RCN

College says the government must exempt healthcare workers from new immigration charge.
Cost of overseas workers

The government must exempt healthcare workers from a new immigration charge or risk worsening staff shortages, the RCN has warned.

Employers will have to pay £1,000 for every worker who comes from outside
the European Economic Area. Picture: iStock

In a joint letter to home secretary Amber Rudd, the RCN and British Medical Association (BMA) call on the government to exempt the NHS and the wider health and social care system from a new rule that will see employers charged £1,000 for every overseas worker they hire.

The immigration skills charge (ISC), which comes into force on 6 April, requires an upfront charge of £1,000 to be made to NHS and health and social care employers for each year of an overseas employee’s tier 2 visa.

Tier 2 visas are offered to skilled workers from outside the European Economic Area (EEA).

Financial cost

The RCN and BMA argue that if the ISC had applied to registered nurses in 2015-16, front-line NHS employers would have paid £2.1 million for 2,144 nurses.

They say it is unfair to penalise health and social care employers for recruiting a nurse or doctor to fill workforce gaps because a UK or European Union (EU) national cannot be found to fill the post.

Checks and balances are already in place to ensure posts are first offered to UK and EU nationals through the resident labour market test, they add.

Bad timing

RCN general secretary Janet Davies said: 'The government risks turning off the supply of qualified nurses from around the world at the very moment the health service is in a staffing crisis like never before.

'Forcing this charge on NHS and other services will worsen the funding crisis and harm the standard of patient care.

'Until the government begins to train enough nurses here, it should exempt the international workforce that UK healthcare heavily relies on.'

Although the legislation has been drawn up by the former Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the government says the proposals are a joint initiative by the Home Office, Department for Education and Department of Health.

Home-grown skills

A government spokesperson said: ‘This government is committed to building home-grown skills and wants to encourage employers to do the same.

‘There are already 30,000 students training to be doctors, and more than 52,000 training to be nurses, and the introduction of the ISC will help encourage employers to invest in training so that UK workers have the right skills to fill jobs.’

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