FFE Magazine

Number of Britain’s foreign nurses spikes up

by FFE EU News staff

The National Health Service has been recruiting nurses overseas in a bid to put a plug at staff shortages in hospitals. Statistics reveal that the move has spiked up the population of foreign nurses in Britain, doubling in three years from 2,306 in 2009 to 4,521 in 2012.

Amid NHS’ plan to increase overseas recruitment measures, patients’ groups are showing anxiety over the nurses’ skills and competence. Nursing leaders have also said that NHS trusts have not been planned better, causing the government to lose money over hiring new nurses rather than retaining staff.

Under the EU rules on freedom of labour, foreign nurses are able to register for work with few checks on language competence. NHS so far has targeted 12 countries in Europe as well as the Philippines, Australia, US and India to recruit.

Chief executive of the Patients Association Katherine Murphy said that nurses who are desperately needed in their own country are being poached by the NHS, and that the nurses recruited often have difficulty with the language.

Royal College of Nursing general secretary Dr Peter Carter worried that NHS’ recruitment is merely a ‘short-term’ solution. He said ‘It is frankly perplexing that on the one hand nursing posts are being cut and training places being reduced, while on the other desperate managers are raiding overseas workforces.’

A government report revealed that there would be a shortage of 500,000 nurses in Britain if the trend persists.

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham remarked that ‘short-sighted plans are bad for the NHS and bad for our economy.’ He points to prime minister David Cameron’s policy that ‘is making experienced nurses redundant, leaving our wards short-staffed, and storing up future workforce shortages.’

Meanwhile, senior hospital staff members fear the shortages will put their patients at risk. ‘It is staffing that keeps me up at night. If we carry on the way we are, the only thing we can do is to start to shut wards if we can’t staff them,’ said Maria Bentley of the Nottingham University Hospitals Trust.

The Department of health so far said in a statement that ‘Recruiting from abroad is nothing new. Overseas nurses make a very valuable contribution to NHS patient care. However, they should only ever work in the NHS if they have proven their competence and language skills.’

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