Tier 2 visa problems making NHS staffing crisis worse

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Newcastle upon Tyne's NHS Trust faces a staffing crisis as UK Immigration is preventing them from employing more nurses from the Philippines. The Home Office have refused to issue enough certificates of sponsorship (COS), which is one of the requirements to enable the NHS Trust to employ more workers from outside the EEA. The Trust's chief executive, Sir Leonard Fenwick, said that the new nurses will 'form the backbone of its workforce.'

However, the new nursing recruits are still 6,500 miles away in the Philippines. Sir Leonard Fenwick, went onto say: "The situation is frustrating. Over the past ten years we've had many success stories bringing staff into the NHS from the Philippines. They have all been fantastic and really hit the ground running."

Sir Leonard added: "They have become indispensable. This is about bringing high calibre people to Britain who quickly become wholly engaged in the social fabric of this country."

Tier 2 sponsorship problems for the Newcastle Trust

The Trust's staffing crisis has not been helped by the rejection of their applications for 85 tier 2 certificates of sponsorship between June and September. Certificates of sponsorship are one of the requirements for employers to be able to employ non-EU staff for job roles in the UK under the Tier 2 visa scheme.

Newcastle upon Tyne Trust, along with 10 other NHS Trusts across the country has submitted a letter via the NHS Employers organisation to Home Secretary, Theresa May urging Mrs May to ease UK immigration rules.

In the letter, the NHS Employers Organisation estimated that applications for certificates of sponsorship for approximately 1,000 nurses from outside the EU have so far been rejected this year. The organisation expects a further 1,000 applications to be denied over the next six months.

Home Office disputes the figures

However, the Home Office said that the figures quoted by the NHS Employers organisation are not accurate. The government department claims that over 1,400 tier 2 certificates of sponsorship have been issued to nurses since April [2015], but 600 of those issued between April and May [2015] had been 'returned unused.'

Sanwar Ali, Editor of workpermit.com had the following comments to make:

"The Home Office should expect some certificates of sponsorship to remain unused because when employers are applying, they are asked in advance how many will be required. This results in some employers having too many and equally, some not having enough.

In recent months, Certificates of Sponsorship for tier 2 visas has been 'oversubscribed.' Occupations under the Shortage Occupation list gain more points under the points based system and so are given priority. Unfortunately, Nurses were removed from the Shortage Occupation List on 6 April 2015. Nurse salary rates tend to be lower than many skilled occupations therefore nurses gain fewer points under the points based system and so are less likely to be allocated a COS when there is a shortage of COSs.

A spokesperson for the Home Office said: "Taking evidence from various NHS Trusts and representative bodies across the UK earlier this year, the independent Migration Advisory Committee advised that nurses should not be added to the shortage occupation list."

Hospital affected by immigration rules

Chief executive of NHS Employers, Daniel Mortimer, said: "The decision to leave nurses off of the shortage occupation list is having an adverse effect on the UK's NHS hospitals. Until we see the results of training UK nurses paying off, hospitals still need the flexibility to recruit from overseas."

He added: "Tighter tier 2 sponsorship rules highlight two areas of concern. One, recruiting permanent staff from within the UK, from the EU or outside the EU becomes virtually impossible. This leads to the recruitment of agency staff, which costs the NHS a fortune. Second, NHS management teams are looking at their winter schedules thinking 'how are we going to staff them?' Make no mistake, the winter period across the NHS will be pressured."

Tier 2 Visa Salary Thresholds

Aside from the decision to remove nurses from the shortage occupation list, recent proposals to increase the tier 2 visa salary threshold have also raised concerns. The Migration Advisory Committee will be reporting on this to the Government later this year.

In addition, there are concerns that the increase in minimum salary requirements to gain indefinite leave to remain usually after five years in the UK will also cause problems for Tier 2 visa holders. The NHS Employers organisation says that many skilled health staff are paid nowhere near as much as the £35,000 salary requirement for indefinite leave to remain.

The Royal College of Nursing [RCN] said: "The idea that non-EU workers would be required to earn £35,000+ before they're entitled to remain in the UK is inviting chaos across the NHS."

Research conducted by the RCN found that by 2020, around 6,620 nurses could potentially be forced out of the UK, wasting close to £40 million in recruitment costs. Across some NHS Trusts, skilled healthcare staff have already quit in search of jobs that meet the new salary threshold for indefinite leave to remain, further adding to the NHS staff crisis.

Workpermit.com can help with Tier 2 Visa Sponsorship Licences

If you need help with a Tier 2 sponsorship licence or would like help with complying with your Tier 2 sponsorship licence obligations workpermit.com can help. Call 0344 99 9222 for further details.