In a joint letter to the Home Secretary Amber Rudd, the RCN and British Medical Association (BMA) are calling on the Government to exempt the NHS and wider health and social care system from an immigration charge which will cost the NHS millions, and could worsen staff shortages across the health service.
The immigration skills charge (ISC), which comes into force on 6 April, requires an upfront charge of £1,000 to be made to NHS and health and social care employers for each year of an overseas employee’s tier 2 visa.
Tier 2 visas are offered to skilled workers from outside the European Economic Area (EEA).
If the ISC had applied to registered nurses in 2015-16 frontline NHS employers would have paid £2.1 million for 2,144 nurses.
But the RCN and BMA believe it is unfair to penalise health and social care employers for recruiting a doctor or nurse to fill workforce gaps because a UK or EU national cannot be found to fill the post.
Checks and balances are already in place to ensure posts are first offered to UK and EU nationals through the resident labour market test.
The letter calls on the Government to exempt the NHS and the wider health and social care system from the charges to avoid making existing staff shortages even more severe.
RCN Chief Executive Janet Davies said: “The Government risks turning off the supply of qualified nurses from around the world at the very moment the health service is in a staffing crisis like never before.
“Forcing this charge on NHS and other services will worsen the funding crisis and harm the standard of patient care.
“Until the Government begins to train enough nurses here, it should exempt the international workforce that UK health care heavily relies on.”