Professor Dame Donna Kinnair:
You will have seen that the RCN has been lobbying for an increase—we lobbied long and hard on “Scrap the Cap” for nurses—but we are where we are. We have a shortage of 42,000 nurses at the moment, and it is predicted that it will rise to about 100,000 in the next 10 years. Those are people who look after our patients. We are where we are.
Of course we need to increase the domestic supply of nurses, and that includes paying them appropriately. We fully support that, and we have been lobbying on that basis. However, the people who gave evidence to the Select Committee about the Government’s plans talked about three areas: international recruitment, return to practice and retention. We know that you cannot have a nursing workforce fit for the needs of the population of this country unless you increase the domestic supply. As you will have heard, we have been lobbying up and down the country. Unless we get the right staff in the right organisations, we will also seek legislation on staffing. We know that if we do not have the right number of people, care falls, and that is damaging to our patients.
In summary, we are lobbying. We do not understand the proposal about low-skilled workers, because who in nursing is a low-skilled worker? What does that mean? The 12-month visa does not allow continuity of care, because by the time someone has got to grips with the culture of this country, they are ready to go. It is also contrary to people being able to bring their dependants into the country. Many nurses have families. Are we going to split up families? Are we asking them to leave their children while they come and provide care for the UK population?