A Government ban on international nurses landing jobs in the UK has been dismissed as a "red herring" by the region's leading nursing union.
The directive announced yesterday said overseas nurses would be barred from applying for junior posts unless a UK nurse or a colleague from the European Economic Area could not be found to fill the position.
The move is aimed at giving recently-qualified 'homegrown' carers better employment opportunities.
But Ann Leedham-Smith, Royal College of Nursing West Midlands spokeswoman, last night said the ban would do little to bolster the hopes of the 4,000 nurses due to graduate in the region this year.
Last week the Birmingham Post reported how 80 per cent of nurses graduating in the West Midlands did not have a job to go to, compared with 30 per cent last year.
Now, the relevant nursing bands are being taken off the Home Office shortage occupation list and it means employers will have to advertise vacancies to homegrown students before looking abroad.
Health Minister Lord Warner said large-scale recruitment of international nurses was only ever meant to be a "short-term measure", and extra investment in training meant there was no longer a need to hire junior nurses from abroad.
Mrs Leedham-Smith said the move risked making over-seas nurses a scapegoat for the financial crisis in the NHS.
"Certainly in the Midlands there has been no recruitment of overseas nurses for 18 months at least," she said. "Individual trusts here saw that there were plenty of nurses in this country for them to recruit.
"I don't know why the Department of Health has come up with this idea now - it is a red herring. In any place, many overseas nurses come to work in the private sector."
Mrs Leedham-Smith said it was the recruitment freeze in place at most of region's trusts that was really to blame for nurses' struggle to find work.
"Even the hospitals which do not have large deficits have recovery plans in place, so they don't overspend, and this means they won't be recruiting this year. The only jobs available to them will be in the private sector.
"We really need to take the politics out of training and recruitment provision and detach that from deficit.
"There needs to be a 10-year programme where universities have a strong relationship with the trusts where they give jobs to the students and the supply matches demand."
Steve Barnett, director of NHS Employers, said the organisation was trying to get a clearer picture of how UK graduating nurses will fare in getting jobs this year.
In London, Manchester, Leeds and Essex, employers expect to be able to hire all their newly qualified staff but there were "real issues" in the East and West Midlands, he said. ..SUPL: