Immigration and the NHS

Will new immigration laws put even more pressure on the NHS?

The New Immigration Law

Every change of government promises so much in terms of our healthcare system and Brexit doesn’t seem to have helped at all. How many times have we heard about improvements to the NHS: extra funding, more hospital beds, more staff and less waiting time? It’s just not happening and with the latest immigration laws that are being proposed, the whole issue is growing increasingly complicated.


The NHS is Understaffed

This is a fact. No amount of bluster, fudging numbers or promises to do better can disguise it. So, what do the government do? Potentially cut off the ability to employ staff from overseas that do not reach ‘certain criteria’? This will cause more shortages in staffing, particularly on the nursing side.


As is so often the case, it all comes down to finance. Under the rules laid out by the Home Secretary, anybody seeking to work in the UK will need to earn a salary of £25,600 or more to be considered a ‘skilled worker.’


There’s an elephant in the room here, and it’s threatening to crush the fabric of the NHS underfoot. Median nursing salaries in the UK start at around £22,000 – despite the many years of training and, yes, skills required to perform the job.


Now, all is not lost. Some degree of salvation is available in the form of the immigration points system. Under this ruling, certain jobs – including nursing – can trade experience and critical skills for a lower salary.


This means, that yes, nurses from overseas can theoretically still provide some much-needed aid to our beleaguered NHS. These legal doctrines will make everything considerably more complicated, though. Even if a registered nurse currently works in the UK having joined the NHS from an EU nation, they will need to apply to the EU settlement scheme. This will create delays and uncertainty for nurses and patients alike.


Of course, there is a higher percentage of UK nationals who work in our care system, but there is also a relatively substantial minority who are sourced from both EU countries and further afield. A 2019 Parliamentary survey showed these statistics.


Understanding the logic behind this reasoning is difficult, considering that over 13% of our care staff are from overseas, and this will potentially decrease over the next year or so.


What are the Main Criteria for Overseas Medical Staff to Work in the UK?

This is something of a minefield, and a huge process to go through. The phrase ‘jumping through hoops’ comes to mind. It is set to become a long and arduous process, for both candidates and care bodies to handle.


The entry qualifications are somewhat dependent on levels, from unskilled to skilled, just like any other job, only this profession is obviously far more important. Surgeons, doctors, and other highly qualified medical staff do not have the same stringent levels of scrutiny other than background and qualification checks – but then this is not where our UK shortages lie – it is primarily nursing staff.


For potential immigration nursing staff to work in the UK, the main criteria are:


-Competency in the English Language, both spoken and written.

-Computer-based examination, with multiple choices.

-An OSCE (Objective Structured Clinical Examination) which would be held in the United Kingdom.


Anybody with experience of working with the NHS’s superb and hard-working nursing teams will know that most will sail through these tests with flying colours. All the same, it’s going to create delays and bottlenecks. This is far from ideal, when the NHS is already under strain. The healthcare industry needs less red tape, not more.


Should Health Authorities and Trusts Be More on the Ball?

The Conservative government’s proposals for cutting down on overseas staff have been around for almost two years. Certain Trusts and authorities recognised this and acted accordingly, ensuring adequate – if not essential – staffing levels. While healthcare should never be an industry where the minimum is deemed acceptable, sometimes needs must.


As an example, the OUH (Oxford University Hospitals) Trust started a recruitment drive back in 2018, aiming to fill nursing positions in 2019 and again in 2020. This Trust covers four main sites in the area and have recruited over 100 overseas nursing staff in the last 18 months.


Time, however, is running out in terms of when the Government will introduce the new hard and fast immigration laws. Qualified and highly experienced teams from the OUH Trust have spent an untold amount of time to travel out to India and the Philippines to interview and recruit high quality nurses. Surely, this is yet another drain on resources and budget? It’s worth commending such forward-thinking and action, but it really shouldn’t be necessary.


How Could You Cover Staff Shortages?

As with any major change of nationwide policy, there will be teething problems. Expect things to be worse before they get better. This simply the way of the world. Thankfully, AppLocum can help you plug any staffing gaps while the country gets to grips with this brave new world.


AppLocum can help cover staff shortages for as short or as long as is required, until permanent placements can be found. By signing up to our service, you will enjoy access to a wide range of experienced and qualified healthcare professionals. This way, your practice and patients need not suffer through the policies and procedures of the governing body.

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