Tougher immigration rules introduced by the Government are among the reasons why the UK is facing a shortage of nurses, according to a new report.
According to research by consultancy Christie & Co, there is a shortfall of around 24,000 nurses, driven by problems recruiting staff from overseas, combined with Government spending cuts and fewer places for student nurses in the UK.
It found 7,000 fewer nurses came to Britain from the EU in 2014-15. The number has fallen since the introduction of new regulations requiring that they already have sponsorship from a British employer before they can take up a nursing position. The rules also prevent overseas nurses from remaining in the UK for more than six years.
Pete Calveley, chief executive of care home operator Barchester Healthcare, said: “We want to recruit from India, South Africa and the Philippines as these nurses are a very high calibre generally. But we cannot.
“We hope that with the completion of the election, the political climate will be a better one to discuss immigration policy regarding nurses. It is critical.”
The shortage is being most keenly felt in the mainly private sector care home industry, which had a vacancy rate of nine per cent, the report said. The NHS is also facing a seven per cent shortfall in nursing numbers.
The lack of staff nurses means both the private sector and the NHS has had to use more nursing agency staff, which has driven up costs. The report found that agency staff cost care homes double the hourly rate of a staff nurse. Figures used in the report from Royal College of Nursing research also suggested that the NHS spend on agency staff has jumped by more than 230 per cent in the last three years.