The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has said the Migration Advisory Committee has underestimated the shortage of nurses in the UK, and the impact this could have on patient care.
Speaking about the move, Dr Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN, said it was "deeply" disappointing that the committee had not included nursing in its recognised shortages list.
He highlighted how many patients have to wait hours to be treated in hospital during busy periods, and urged the committee to "reconsider their position in the light of this misinterpreted evidence".
As part of the evidence the RCN submitted, the body highlighted upcoming changes to immigration laws, which means that many non-EU nurses may be forced to leave their nursing roles. This could potentially have a significant impact on staffing levels, as could an ageing population.
With a larger number of elderly people in the UK, it is likely that nurses will be in higher demand as their unique skills are needed to address age-related health problems from heart disease to dementia.
Problems with staff shortages are currently being "plugged", according to the RCN, and a lot of NHS employers and those in the private sector are being troubled by not having enough nurses and doctors.
"We have consistently called for both a long-term solution to the lack of staff, and for nursing roles to be on the shortage list. Nurses who are stretched to breaking point will be utterly bemused as to how this conclusion has been reached, which reflects none of the realities of delivering daily care to patients,” added Dr Carter.
He said that, in the long run, it is "absolutely right" that enough nurses should be trained in the UK to meet the nation's demand, but a reduction in places has meant that many nurses now come from overseas. If these professionals were to leave, "there would barely be a hospital or clinic that could function safely", Dr Carter said.
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