Hundreds of overseas nurses applying for UK visas to work in NHS Hospitals in the East of England have been turned down, according to the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).
The refusals come despite the Government agreeing to place nursing on the shortage occupation list in October last year, amid concerns the tightening of UK visa restrictions would leave the NHS struggling to cope with high winter demand for its services.
Using a Freedom of Information request, the RCN discovered that been April and November last year, 2,341 applications for certificates of sponsorship for overseas nurses submitted by NHS Trusts around the UK were rejected.
In the East of England region, figures showed that the highest number of rejections were at the East & North Hertfordshire NHS Trust which had 84 applications turned down, followed by the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn, which saw 82 applications declined.
Catherine Morgan, director of nursing at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, told ITV News: “It's very frustrating when you've got people who want to come and work here and we've got gaps and we desperately would like to bring those people and make our hospital better and provide better patient experience by providing more nurses. Also it increases the strain on the nurses who are here working.”
However, the Home Office said that the restrictions had been put in place so that businesses recruited people who were already in the UK.
A spokesman added: “In October, the Home Secretary agreed to place nurses on the shortage occupation list on a short-term basis to make it easier for health trusts to fill vacancies over the winter months.”
The Government has asked the Migration Advisory Committee to look at whether nurses need to remain on the shortage list after the busy winter period. It is expected to report back on the issue in February.