Nursing has been added to the official list of occupations suffering from shortages, which means that more nurses from non-EU countries will be given UK visas to work in the NHS.
The move by the Government has been made on a temporary basis and it is seeking further guidance from the Migration Advisory Committee on how long it should last. The organisation is set to report its findings at the end of the year.
The changes come after outcry from NHS groups including the NHS Employers organisation, 10 NHS Trusts in England and Wales, and nursing unions about plans for tougher immigration rules, which would have made recruitment of nurses from overseas more difficult. NHS groups wrote to Home Secretary Theresa May over concerns patients would be at risk because there would not be enough nurses to care for them.
A spokesman for the Welsh Government said: “We are pleased the Home Secretary has listened to views expressed by the Welsh Government and NHS Employers and is taking steps to ensure immigration arrangements support the delivery of safe care in health services across the UK.”
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the changes had been made so that hospitals would not be forced to pay over the odds for nurses from staff agencies.
According to NHS Employers, around 1,000 certificates of sponsorship, allowing non-EU nurses to the work in the UK, will be required for adequate staffing levels in the next six months.
However, it said a number had already been rejected by the authorities and that it is yet to receive a reply to a letter highlighting the problems, which was sent to Immigration Minister James Brokenshire in July.
NHS Employers said the high numbers of overseas nurses are needed now because nurses currently in training will not be qualified until 2017.