UK immigration rules results in fall in foreign nurse immigration

A recent study has shown that there has been a sharp decline in the number of nurses emigrating to the UK. It is widely thought that this is due to UK immigration bringing in tougher immigration controls on overseas nurses.

The National Nursing Research Unit (NNRU) at King's College London evaluated how nurse migration has changed in the UK. They also looked at the effects of changes in UK immigration policy on the nurses' home Countries over the last five years.

One such immigration change was in 2005 when the UK Department of Health placed a ban on actively recruiting nurses from countries receiving UK aid. But the NNRU researchers said such interventions had not resulted in improved retention of nurses in their home countries.

The study found that there was a significant decline in the number of internationally trained nurses emigrating to the UK over the last decade. Before 2005, 10,000-16,000 nurses were emigrating to the UK each year, but following the changes in 2005 the numbers decreased to 2,000-2,500 foreign nurses arriving in the UK each year.

Since bringing in more rigorous immigration rules, instead of joining the UK nursing workforce, foreign nurses from developing countries decided to emigrate to other Countries. In addition to the immigration rule changes, the researchers noted there was also a decrease in demand for foreign nurses partially due to a decline in investment in the nursing industry.

"Some nurses felt aggrieved that the doors of the UK that had previously been open to them, were now closed," the researchers said, adding that foreign nurses perceived the tightening up of UK regulations as "discriminatory".

The NNRU noted that the UK immigration rules were originally introduced to encourage nurses to stay in their own countries, but "this has not had the anticipated effect of improving source country retention, as increasingly nurses leave the profession to work outside of nursing. In other countries, such as the Philippines and India, nurses continue to migrate but are taking up employment in a new wave of destination countries."

The researchers predicted the UK may need to re-establish overseas recruitment to meet the likely increase in demand for nurses caused by an ageing population.

"Tightening up of regulatory and migratory controls to the UK have compromised the 'attractiveness' of the UK as a destination for nurses, and there may be work to be done in the future to convince internationally trained nurses that they are welcome and needed in the UK," they added.

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