The situation was becoming a little confusing, but now the UK seems to be indicating they want the Filipina nurse if they are properly qualified.Home secretary Theresa May says she is prepared to ease visa restrictions on Filipina nurses who have come to the UK to work. It means constraints on employing nurses who have come from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and are earning less than £35,000 a year have been temporarily lifted. In addition, non-EEA nurses will be prioritised when they apply for the certificates of sponsorship they require to be eligible to work in the UK.
The home secretary said she was willing to make an exception for the nursing profession, among others, because of the potential risks associated with high vacancy rates and anticipated pressures on the NHS over the winter. The independent Migration Advisory Committee had said in February that nursing should not be added to the ‘shortage occupation’ list. February review However, Ms May acknowledged that since then, increasing numbers of employers had raised concerns about nurse staffing problems.
She said the government’s intention to achieve a seven-day NHS, as well as new rules on how much NHS organisations can spend on agency nurses, had to be considered too. The issue will be reviewed by the Migration Advisory Committee by next February, when it will look again at whether there is a shortage of nurses or specific nursing jobs that could be filled by the migration of non-EEA nurses.
The RCN and Unison were among a number of organisations that lobbied for nursing to be placed on the shortage occupation list. Unison’s head of nursing Gail Adams says it is about time nursing was placed on the list but questions why it has taken so long. She says the process that overseas-trained nurses must go through to work in the UK.
Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust sent a recruitment team to the Philippines earlier this year. The organisation finally secured approval for certificates of sponsorship for 40 nurses last week after three previous attempts. The trust employs 4,500 nurses and has 300 nurse vacancies. It is attempting to recruit locally.
Director of nursing and patient services Helen Lamont says: ‘There is a nursing shortage in this country. I know there has been extra training but it takes a number of years to go through the process. Without these [Filipino] nurses, it is going to be difficult to staff the wards this winter.’ Around 3.5% of Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust’s 2,600 nurses are trained outside the UK. But the nurse vacancy rate from ward and main clinical areas has increased to 11.4% or 247 full-time equivalent posts against the trust’s target of 5% for registered nurses. Valued colleagues The trust began a recruitment campaign in August last year, but focused its attentions on the UK and Europe. A spokesperson says that the government’s announcement means the trust can now attempt to recruit non-EEA nurses.
Chief nurse Ann-Marie Ingle says: ‘This will bring enormous relief to our existing staff and enable us to continue to recruit high-quality nurses from around the world. We recognise and value our colleagues from countries outside Europe including the Philippines. They are an integral part of our workforce, especially during this time of national shortages.’ NHS Employers chief executive Danny Mortimer expressed his delight at the Home Office announcement. He says the organisation will strive to ensure the Migration Advisory Committee receives ‘robust evidence to enable nursing to remain on the list of shortage occupations’