Immigration changes mean many migrant nurses can't stay in UK

From 6 April 2012, migrants from outside the EU earning less than £35,000 will not be allowed to settle in the UK. Critics have accused ministers of risking patient health in favour of a "crude" immigration policy after government documents revealed that almost half of the migrant nurses will be forced to leave the UK under the new immigration rules.

A new UK government impact assessment reveals the change will cut the number of NHS nurses by "hundreds or low thousands" and cost the economy up to £433 million over the next 10 years as people leave.

The impact assessment stated: "We estimate 48 percent of migrant nurses, 37 percent of primary school teachers, 35 percent of IT/software professionals and 9 percent of secondary teachers would be excluded." However, the assessment claims that the loss of the migrant nurses will not have a "significant impact" on the ability of the 698,000-strong nurse workforce in the country to carry out their duties.

But Gail Adams, head of nursing at the union Unison, claimed the losses would come on top of a current shortage of trained nursing staff and at a time when many nurses in what is a relatively elderly workforce will be moving into retirement.

"The government should think again about these restrictions on overseas nurses. They have cut the number of nurse training places by 20 per cent over the last two years, which means we will not have enough qualified nurses to cover those coming up to retirement," Adams said. "These crude restrictions will make matters worse and create skill shortages in the future. The quality of care will obviously suffer if hospitals cannot recruit the nurses they need to ensure a safe ratio of nurses to patients."

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