The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has called on the Government to exempt health care workers from the new immigration charge to avoid worsening the staff shortage crisis.
In a joint letter to the home secretary Amber Rudd, the RCN and the British Medical Association (BMA) said that the NHS and wider health and social care system should not be liable to pay new the immigration skills charge (ISC).
The charge, which will come into force on 6 April, means that employers have to pay an upfront charge of £1,000 for each year of an overseas employee’s tier 2 visa – for skilled workers from outside the European Economic Area (EEA).
If non-EU nurses had been subject to the charge in 2015/16, frontline health and social care employers would have had to pay £2.1m for 2,144 nurses.
The royal college said it is ‘unfair to penalise health and social care employers for recruiting a doctor or nurse to fill workforce gaps because a UK or EU national cannot be found to fill the post’.
Existing systems are in place to ensure that posts are first offered to UK and EU nationals through the resident labour market test.
‘Turning off the supply’ of nurses
RCN Chief Executive Janet Davies said: ‘The Government risks turning off the supply of qualified nurses from around the world at the very moment the health service is in a staffing crisis like never before.
‘Forcing this charge on NHS and other services will worsen the funding crisis and harm the standard of patient care.
‘Until the Government begins to train enough nurses here, it should exempt the international workforce that UK health care heavily relies on,’ she said.