Access to UK work permits for nurses to rise?

23 Dec 2011 | Posted by Carl Thomas

The ease with which nurses from outside of the European Economic Area can access UK work permits could be set to increase as recent figures suggest that Britain could be in need of outside assistance.

The data, compiled by the National Nursing Research Unit at King's College London, showed that the long-term demand for nursing staff in the UK looks likely to increase due to the challenges posed by an ageing workforce and population.

While efforts are being made to create jobs for the native population, there are some doubts as to whether or not it will be sufficient to meet demand. As a result, the country may need to work at opening up access to UK work permits to more nurses from overseas.

In the past, Britain had tightened up its immigration policy regarding nurses from non-EU countries in a bid to improve the source country retention levels, which were falling at a worrying rate.

Unfortunately, the policy did not have the desired effect. While there was a decline of nurses entering the UK workforce from outside of the EU, source countries, such as the Philippines and India, did not see a substantial increase in their numbers. Instead, nurses continued to migrate but took up employment in alternative destination countries, such as Japan.

Between 2005 and 2010, the annual number of migrant nurses entering the UK fell from between 10,000 to 16,000, to just 2,000 to 2,500 a year.

Reduced demand, but also the introduction of stricter regulatory and migration controls were deemed responsible for the decline. Now it appears the government may have to work hard to promote the UK as a favourable destination for migrant nurses having previously discouraged them.