Britain’s health officials have raised an alarm over the prospect of over 1,200 Indian nurses and thousands more from other non-EU countries being forced to leave the country due to a new income threshold required under visa rules for continued stay in the country.
Worried over the impact on patient safety and care, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has petitioned the David Cameron government to lower or abolish the income threshold or remove nurses from the visa category for which the threshold is applicable.
The number of Indian nurses and midwives moving to the UK has been falling in recent years, alongwith falling number of Indian doctors, as the Indian health sector grows exponentially, creating more demand and opportunities within the country.
Changes made in 2012 require that nurses who entered the UK after 6 April 2011 on a Tier 2 visa will need to earn an annual salary of 35,000 pounds for indefinite stay in the country. Nurses can stay and work for only six years if they cannot reach the threshold.
The Nursery and Midwifery Council told Hindustan Times that since 2011, 1218 nurses and midwives trained in India had registered with the council. Since it is difficult for a nurse to reach the threshold within six years in work, most of them – and their families – would need to return to India after 2017.
RCN said the total number of non-EU nurses affected by the threshold is 3,365, which will adversely affect patient care and safety in the National Health Service (NHS). Even if 10% of them reach the threshold in six years, over 3,000 would still need to leave the country.
Peter Carter, RCN chief executive, said: "The immigration rules for health care workers will cause chaos for the NHS and other care services. At a time when demand is increasing, the UK is perversely making it harder to employ staff from overseas”.
He added: "The UK will be sending away nurses who have contributed to the health service for six years. Losing their skills and knowledge and then having to start the cycle again and recruit to replace them is completely illogical”.