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Reliance on overseas nurses to meet 50,000 target ‘chaotic’

We should invest in UK nursing staff as overseas recruitment will potentially cause workforce crises in other countries, says leading nurse academic
Government overseas nurse recruitment target branded ‘chaotic’

We should invest in UK nursing staff as overseas recruitment will potentially cause workforce crises in other countries, says leading nurse academic

The government’s reliance on overseas recruitment to reach its 50,000 nurses pledge has been branded ‘chaotic’ and ‘meaningless’ for failing to address chronic domestic workforce issues.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has shelved plans to retain an extra 18,500 of its own nurses by 2024 – part of its original election promise – significantly reducing its goal to keep nurses already working in the NHS to between 3,000 and 9,000.

Reliance on overseas recruitment cannot be sustained

Instead, the

We should invest in UK nursing staff as overseas recruitment will potentially cause workforce crises in other countries, says leading nurse academic

A leading nurse academic has branded the government’s reliance on overseas recruitment to reach its 50,000 nurse target as ‘chaotic‘
Picture: iStock

The government’s reliance on overseas recruitment to reach its 50,000 nurses pledge has been branded ‘chaotic’ and ‘meaningless’ for failing to address chronic domestic workforce issues.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has shelved plans to retain an extra 18,500 of its own nurses by 2024 – part of its original election promise – significantly reducing its goal to keep nurses already working in the NHS to between 3,000 and 9,000.

Reliance on overseas recruitment cannot be sustained

Instead, the DHSC’s 50,000 Nursing Programme update, published last month, focuses on bringing in tens of thousands of overseas nurses to plug staffing gaps, projecting an extra 51,000 by 2024.

Former Southbank University professor of children’s nursing Alison Twycross warned reliance on overseas recruitment cannot be sustained.

Alison Twycross

‘The government’s NHS workforce planning has been chaotic and continues to be so. The government needs to put its money where its mouth is and invest in the nursing workforce already in the UK rather than rely on recruiting staff from overseas,’ she told Nursing Standard.

‘Mass recruitment of international nurses is fraught with ethical issues. We are potentially causing workforce crises in other countries.’

Between 2015 and 2021 the number of UK nurses has increased by just 8.9%, or 19,283, according to NHS Digital workforce figures.

Meanwhile, the number of international nurses from outside the European Economic Area almost doubled from 23,581 to 55,936 in the same time period, an increase of 137%.

Dr Twycross added: ‘Appropriate support also needs to be put in place to help these overseas nurses be retained or it’s meaningless.’

Think tank policy advisor likens recruitment target to ‘leaky bucket scenario’

Earlier this week, the King’s Fund published analysis that said that even if the government is able to meet the 50,000 more nurses target, they were still ‘missing the point’.

With acute shortages in adult nursing, learning and disability and specialist nursing roles, even if the number is met, there will be little ‘meaningful change’ to services, the think tank found.

‘It’s the leaky bucket scenario. A policy decision has clearly been made on international recruitment, but no amount of recruitment can keep up with outpouring if there is a hole,’ The King’s Fund policy advisor Jonathon Holmes told Nursing Standard.

The DHSC has been contacted for comment.

Simple short-term solutions to retaining staff would be:

  • Give nurses a pay rise to make them feel valued
  • Free parking at work
  • Healthy food available in the staff canteen 24 hours a day/7 days a week
  • Subsidised childcare
  • Ensuring mileage rates for those working in the community covers the cost
  • Preceptorship of newly qualified nurses – those leaving in the two years after qualifying is still high

Source: Dr Alison Twycross



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