Nurses leaders are urging the Government to scrap an increase in the cost of a health and care visa which they warned will make the UK a less attractive place to work for health staff.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) wrote to the Home Secretary saying the increase may be unaffordable to many health workers and act as a “significant barrier” to retaining staff.
The RCN said cost of applying for the visa, which allows nursing staff from overseas to work in the NHS or adult social care is set to “soar” by 15% to £551 for staff working in the UK for more than three years.
In addition to this, nursing students will see their visa fees rise by £127 to £490.
The RCN said there are tens of thousands of nursing vacancies in the NHS and more gaps in social care.
In the letter, RCN general secretary Pat Cullen said: “These fee increases will make the UK a less attractive place to live and work for the nurses and other health professionals who make vital contributions to our health and care sector every day.
“Nurses and care workers, regardless of their country of origin, make a vital contribution to this country in both the care they provide and the taxes and national insurance contributions they already pay.
“They deserve to be valued and recognised.
“Subjecting our much-needed internationally educated staff in the health and care sector to additional levies is not only unjust but divisive and short-sighted.”
A Government spokesperson said: “We recognise the significant contribution of overseas NHS workers but must keep our immigration policies under constant review to ensure they best serve the UK and reflect the public’s priorities.
“There are already a record number of nurses working in the NHS. The health and care visa also remains significantly cheaper for eligible people working in health and social care to come to the UK with their families.”