The government has been urged to scrap the ‘divisive and short-sighted’ rise in the cost of a health and care visa, amid concerns the increase will act as a ‘significant barrier’ to retaining overseas nurses working in the UK.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has written to the home secretary outlining its concerns over the fee increases which it says will ‘make the UK a less attractive place to live and work’ for nurses.
The cost of applying for a health and care visa, which allows nursing staff from overseas to work in the NHS or adult social care sector, is this week set to rise by 15% to £551 for staff working in the UK for more than three years.
In addition to this, nursing students will see their visa fees rise by £127 to £490.
The cost to apply for ‘settlement’ in the UK, which is indefinite leave to remain, is set to increase by 20% to £2,885.
‘Only this week the Prime Minister admitted that not enough nurses had been trained, and yet he is intent on making it harder to recruit more staff,’ the RCN said.
‘In the context of a decade of pay erosion, these increases may be unaffordable to many health workers and act as a significant barrier to retaining vital staff,’ the RCN warned.
The professional body has written to the home secretary, Suella Braverman, calling for the increases to be scrapped ‘to prevent barriers to overseas nursing staff working in the UK being raised even higher’.
The RCN said it recognises the NHS ‘needs to reduce reliance on internationally educated staff and invest in expanding the UK-educated nursing workforce’, but said ‘this will take time’.
It pointed to the ‘tens of thousands of nursing vacancies in the NHS‘, adding that ‘there are even more gaps in social care’.
And it warned that ‘cutting the supply of internationally educated nursing staff will only add to the pressure on health and care services’.
In the letter, RCN general secretary and chief executive Pat Cullen, said: ‘These fee increases will make the UK a less attractive place to live and work for the nurses and other health professionals who make vital contributions to our health and care sector every day.
‘Nurses and care workers, regardless of their country of origin, make a vital contribution to this country in both the care they provide and the taxes and national insurance contributions they already pay.
‘They deserve to be valued and recognised. Subjecting our much-needed internationally educated staff in the health and care sector to additional levies is not only unjust but divisive and short-sighted.’
A government spokesperson said: ‘We recognise the significant contribution of overseas NHS workers, but must keep our immigration policies under constant review to ensure they best serve the UK and reflect the public’s priorities.
“There are already a record number of nurses working in the NHS. The Health and Care visa also remains significantly cheaper for eligible people working in health and social care to come to the UK with their families.’