A health crisis is looming in hospitals, care homes and community services that could have catastrophic consequences, a nursing leader has warned.
It comes as the government pushes ahead with new immigration rules that could see many health workers sent home.
Bedford Hospital has revealed that it is now reviewing the potential impact of the proposed legislation that will see non EU workers who are earning less that £35,000 after six years in the UK deported.
A spokesman for the hosptial was unable to reveal at this stage how many staff the rules, due to come into force in April next year, could affect.
Chair of the Beds branch of the Royal College of Nursing Carla Lewinton said: “Nurses recruited from outside the European Economic Area since 2011, who provide vital care to our region’s patients, face being removed from the country.
“Without their help, our services would grind to a halt with potentially catastrophic consequences. Across Bedfordshire hundreds of nursing staff could be affected, in turn damaging services and compromising the safety of patients.
“These nurses, recruited at a cost of thousands of pounds to the NHS, are filling gaps in our workforce we cannot fill ourselves due to cuts to nurse training.”
The starting wage for a newly qualified nurse at Bedford Hospital is around £21,692.
Director of nursing and patient services at the hospital Nina Fraser said: “Our priority is to maintain safe nurse staffing levels that are needed to provide high quality care to our patients. As with other hospitals across the country, we have met our safe staffing targets through the recruitment of nurses locally, nationally as well as from EU and non-EU countries.
“We are aware of government proposals regarding non-EU workers and are currently in the process of assessing the potential impact such legislation could have on our workforce.
The Royal College Of Nurses wants the government to add nurses to the list of professions exempt from the new rule.