Nurses exempted from new immigration controls over NHS staff shortages

Junior doctors have voted in favour of strike action (Pic:PA)

Junior doctors have voted in favour of strike action (Pic:PA) - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

The trust running King George and Queen’s Hospitals has welcomed the lifting of stringent restrictions on recruiting nurses from outside Europe.

The government announced the temporary changes to restrictions on recruitment yesterday (Thurs) in a bid to ensure “safe staffing levels across the NHS”.

Instead of going into a general pool hoping to get one of just 20,700 visas each year, nurses will be added to the government’s shortage occupation list prioritising their applications.

But the changes – which will also prevent non-EU nurses who have been here for at least six years from being deported – are temporary and will be reviewed in February next year.

Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust’s (BHRUT) interim chief nurse Wendy Matthew said: “This is excellent news for the trust.

“We have recruited some excellent overseas nurses in the past who continue to work in our hospitals.

“Lifting the restriction will allow us to continue to complement out local recruitment strategies with overseas recruitment and build a vibrant and diverse workforce that meets the needs of the population we serve.”

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In August, the trust’s finance director Jeff Buggle told the Recorder it was working to reduce its reliance on temporary staff.

Last year it spent around £50m on temporary staff, which includes agency staff, for which the trust must pay a premium.

Home secretary Theresa May has written to the independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), which will review the change and present further evidence to the government.

The move is designed to ease pressure on the health service as it faces tough new controls on costly agency spending.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “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.”