NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens has warned the UK needs to ‘better join the dots’ between immigration policy and the NHS.
- Simon Stevens calls for a “rethink” on immigration rules
- Intervention comes hours after home secretary’s speech on immigration
- Stevens says he has responsibility to point out need for policy change
His comments came just hours after the home secretary Theresa May told the Conservative Party conference in Manchester that mass immigration made it “impossible to build a cohesive society”.
Her comments have received prime minister David Cameron’s backing today.
Mr Stevens, speaking at the Institute of Directors Annual Convention in London, said he had a “responsibility” to speak out over immigration rules which were hampering efforts to expand the NHS’s nursing workforce.
He said there needed to be a rethink of rules that require non-EU nurses earning less than £35,000 a year who have been in the UK for six years to leave the country from April.
Although a shortage occupation list allows some professions to avoid these rules, nursing is not currently listed despite the NHS experiencing a national shortage of nurses.
Following the Francis report into poor care at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust, demand for nurses increased by 21,000 during just 12 months in 2014, prompting thousands of nurses to be recruited from overseas.
Mr Stevens said: “Understandably, we’re having a national discussion about how to get immigration right. My responsibility is to point out that at a time when the need for nurses is growing, when publicly funded UK nurse training places will take several years to expand, and when agency staff costs are driving hospital overspends right now, we need to better join up the dots on immigration policy and the NHS.”
He added: “Most nurses I speak to struggle to understand why our immigration rules define ballet dancers as a shortage occupation, but not nursing. And most hospitals tell me that the idea that we would seriously consider deporting some of our most experienced and committed nurses solely because they’re not earning £35,000 clearly needs a rethink.”
NHS Employers has already lobbied the Home Office over the rules and has said NHS trusts have reported visa applications for non-EU nurses are being rejected because of the bid to control immigration numbers.