Nurses – Jobs At Risk!

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A government ruling on nurse recruitment and work permits that came into force yesterday, puts over 38,000 overseas nurses and their families at risk, UNISON warned.

The biggest health service union told News Line it has written to health secretary Patricia Hewitt over the issue ‘raising our concerns and asking her to reconsider her decision’.

Gail Adams, UNISON Head of Nursing said: ‘It is a fact that the NHS is going through a period of instability and Trusts are trying to balance the books by freezing posts not filling vacancies and in a number of cases making redundancies.

‘However, many thousands of overseas workers have come to the aid of the NHS when we needed them most.

‘As a result, patients have received high quality patient care in many clinical areas, and the support they have given other colleagues in the NHS is vital.

‘We would not wish to see the NHS lose this valuable expertise.

‘We believe that a very large number of overseas nurses, up to 38,329, who are currently working in the UK, could be put at risk, when their work permits are due for renewal.

‘These health workers are fearful for their livelihoods and that of their families and children who are depending on them.’

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) warned yesterday that the government move gives UK and EU nurses advantage over overseas nurses.

The RCN stressed that many of the nurses affected are very experienced with more than 14 years service in the NHS, who will have to re-apply for their own jobs if their contract runs out.

In a notice on its website, the RCN added: ‘The majority of NHS Band 5 and 6 nursing posts will be removed from the UK “Shortage Occupation List” from 14 August 2006.

‘This means the majority of Band 5 and 6 nursing posts will have to be nationally advertised before a work permit application may be lodged.

‘This move represents an effort to place UK and/or EU nurses in available posts ahead of overseas recruits requiring a work permit.

‘However, if an employer can demonstrate genuine difficulties in filling a vacancy, a work permit may still be applied for.

‘A number of Band 5 and 6 Posts remain in national shortage and are not required to be nationally advertised before a work permit is applied for. These are:

‘Audiology; Cardiac Physiology; Critical Care (including Neonatal); Operating Theatre Nursing; Physiology; Clinical Radiology; Neurophysiology; Sleep/Respiratory; Pathology.

‘There are no changes to procedures for those overseas nurses already holding work permits, whose employers wish to retain their services beyond the validity of their existing visa.

‘However, if an existing work permit holder wishes to change employer after 14 August, they may only be considered for posts (apart from the eight exceptions cited above), after they have been nationally advertised and no suitable applicant from either the UK or EU identified.’