On 15 October 2015, nursing was added to the Home Office shortage occupation list. As an interim measure, this change will temporarily ease the immigration requirements for Tier 2 (General) visa applications whilst the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) conducts a review of the supply of nurses. Following this, the MAC will decide whether nursing should remain on the shortage occupation list.
In the past few months, hospitals such as the Newcastle upon Tyne hospital NHS foundation trust have suffered as a result of the Home Office’s refusal of 85 certificates of sponsorship that non-EU nurses needed to enter the UK to work. In turn, these refusals have had a negative impact on the welfare and safety of hospital patients who are in desperate need of care. That is why the Newcastle trust, along with 9 other hospital trusts in the UK, wrote a letter to the Home Secretary, Theresa May, seeking the easing of immigration rules for nurses.
In response, a major reconsideration of the immigration rules has led to the addition of nurses to the shortage occupation list. Not only is this beneficial, by making it easier for nurses originating from outside the UK to enter the country for work, but it also exemplifies the government’s acknowledgement that the ongoing nurse shortage needs to be addressed urgently. Furthermore, research undertaken in care homes has shown that hiring nurses from overseas is a positive experience for both patients and wider society.
Ultimately, it seems nonsensical not to recognise nursing on the shortage occupation list, given the circumstances our country is in at present. Of course the UK should continue to train more nurses, but in the meantime, the decision to alter Tier 2 (General) immigration rules in order to ease the recruitment of overseas nurses will prove to be positive for both workers, patients, and the UK as a whole.