For immediate publication
Friday 7th August 2015


Aberdeenshire East MSP Alex Salmond has branded UK Government’s planned changes Immigration Rules “utterly senseless” and “seriously dangerous”.

This follows a letter Mr Salmond received from Dr Peter Carter, the Chief Executive of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN). In it, Dr Carter highlighted the horrifying prospect that up to 3,365 NHS nurses could be forced to leave the country due the changes in Immigrations Rules.

The changes will affect workers originally from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) on Tier 2 visas issued after 6 April 2011. If any of these workers are not earning £35,000 or more after six years they will be forced to leave the country. Most nurses affected by this rule change currently earn between £21,000 and £28,000.

This means that the NHS could be about to experience even more crippling nursing shortages as early as 2017. RCN research has estimated that the cost to the NHS of recruiting these nurses is £20.19 million which means this rule change is not only a massive loss of valuable skilled staff, but also a huge waste of NHS funds.

As early as last year, the RCN contacted the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) urging for nursing to be included in the Shortage Occupation List to ensure current and future nursing shortage will not be affected by the changes in Immigration Rules. However, the MAC refused to consider the RCN’s advice.

Last Tuesday (28th July 2015), Mr Salmond wrote to Shona Robison MSP (Cabinet Secretary for Health, Wellbeing and Sport) and Teresa May MP (UK Home Secretary), asking for clarification on how many nurses working in Scotland would be affected by the changes and urging the UK Government to reconsider placing nursing on the Shortage Occupation List.

While the Scottish Government has responded, condemning the changes, Mr Salmond has yet to receive a reply from Ms May and the Home Office.

The Scottish Government will be working closely with health boards to ensure that NHS Scotland will be able to continue to deliver high quality and sustainable health services should they experience any forced loses to their nursing staff.

Commenting, Mr Salmond said:

“These changes are utterly senseless and seriously dangerous to our NHS in Scotland. It is plain to see that the loss of more than 3,300 nurses will have a detrimental effect on numbers of available experienced nurses in Scotland, not to mention the considerable cost to the NHS in recruiting them.

“It is also a huge loss of talent. Nursing is a highly skilled profession and nurses coming to our country to work make an extremely valuable contribution to our society.

“Many people in the North East will already be aware the challenges NHS Grampian is currently facing. Great strides have been made by the new leadership towards improvements, but the impact of changes to immigration rules could put unnecessary strain on local healthcare provision.

“It is an astonishing decision as the Home Office’s own impact assessment of the changes found that it was “highly unlikely” that nurses coming to the UK will be in a position to earn the required higher salary within five or six years.

“The changes also add insult to injury following plans to introduce restrictions on non-EU students to work during and after their studies. The SNP has called to scrap these flawed plans and also pushed for the reintroduction of post-study work visa, which would allow students educated in Scotland to remain in the country and work for two years, making sure valuable knowledge and talent is not lost because of the UK Government’s damaging immigration policy.


Notes to the Editor:

Question S4W-26890: Alex Salmond, Aberdeenshire East, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 28/07/2015Hide Full Question <<

To ask the Scottish Government what assistance it is providing to the NHS to mitigate any adverse impact on staffing and patient care in Scotland of the UK Government's changes to immigration rules.

Answered by Shona Robison (07/08/2015):

The Scottish Government does not support the UK Government’s planned changes to immigration rules which could harm our NHS and have an adverse effect on staffing and patient care. We have already made representations to the UK Government about the changes planned for next year, and we will also be providing evidence to the Review of the Tier 2 route which is taking place in autumn 2015.

The Scottish Government is working closely with boards to seek solutions to ensure that NHS Scotland has the staffing it needs to continue to deliver high quality and sustainable health services.

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