Health

Overseas nursing restrictions eased

nurse at work Image copyright SPL

Nursing has been declared an occupation that officially has shortages, paving the way for more nurses from outside the EU to work in the NHS.

Parts of the NHS in England and Wales have lobbied for a change to immigration rules to allow more foreign nurses to come to work in the UK.

The government said the move was a temporary measure.

It is asking an independent committee that advises on migration for further guidance about how long it should last.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "Safe staffing across all our hospitals and care homes is a crucial priority.

"The temporary changes announced today will ensure the NHS has the nurses it needs to deliver the highest standards of care without having to rely on rip-off staffing agencies that cost the taxpayer billions of pounds a year."

Surgery cancellation fears

The announcement comes after leading NHS figures warned that "stringent" immigration rules are preventing them from getting enough nurses on wards in time for winter.

The heads of 10 leading trusts, along with the NHS Employers organisation, wrote to the home secretary to say patients are being put at risk.

They argue operations might be cancelled unless nursing is listed as an occupation with official shortages.

NHS Employers believes that 1,000 certificates of sponsorship, allowing nurses from outside Europe to work here, will be needed in the next six months.

And it says "large numbers" of applications have already been rejected.

NHS Employers wrote to Immigration Minister James Brokenshire about the issue in July - but say they have not yet received a reply.

The Migration Advisory Committee is reviewing this aspect of the immigration system but is not due to report until the end of the year.

The NHS leaders argue action is needed before then - because extra UK nurses who are in training now will not be available until 2017 at the earliest.

A Welsh Government spokesman said: "We are pleased the Home Secretary has listened to views expressed by the Welsh Government and NHS Employers and is taking steps to ensure immigration arrangements support the delivery of safe care in health services across the UK."

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