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UK must stop poaching nurses from poorer countries, warns ICN leader

International Council of Nurses chief Howard Catton says failings in nurse education have led to nurses being hired from red-list countries and ethical guidelines on recruitment must be stronger

International Council of Nurses chief Howard Catton says failings in nurse education have led to nurses being hired from red-list countries and ethical guidelines on recruitment must be stronger

The recruitment of international nurses needs to have stronger ethical codes as the UK continues to poach nurses from low-income and red-list countries, a nursing leader has warned.

International Council of Nurses (ICN) chief executive Howard Catton said the UK is becoming increasingly reliant on nurses from countries that face critical workforce shortages themselves .

UK has not been investing enough in nurse education for ‘many years’

Mr Catton added that while the UK was failing to invest in the education of new nurses, lower-income countries are educating

International Council of Nurses chief Howard Catton says failings in nurse education have led to nurses being hired from red-list countries and ethical guidelines on recruitment must be stronger

Picture: iStock

The recruitment of international nurses needs to have stronger ethical codes as the UK continues to poach nurses from low-income and red-list countries, a nursing leader has warned.

International Council of Nurses (ICN) chief executive Howard Catton said the UK is becoming increasingly reliant on nurses from countries that face critical workforce shortages themselves.

UK has not been investing enough in nurse education for ‘many years’

Mr Catton added that while the UK was failing to invest in the education of new nurses, lower-income countries are educating and training nurses that are then being recruited to UK jobs.

He told the BBC World Service: ‘I don't think that the ethical codes that exist have sufficient teeth. I don't think that we're monitoring the numbers sufficiently.

‘The UK hasn't been educating enough nurses in many years. Not only is it a deliberate choice not to educate enough, you are then outsourcing the costs of that to other countries because it's other countries who paid for that education.’

In March this year the annual registration report by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) revealed registration from 14 ‘red list’ countries, including 7,256 staff from red-listed Nigeria.

Government’s ‘worst case scenario’ recruitment plan

Red-list countries are categorised by the World Health Organization (WHO) as places where staff are not permitted to be actively recruited, due to their own healthcare shortages.

International registrations also accounted for half of all new registrations on the NMC register in the past year, with the largest providers being India and the Philippines.

ICN’s position statement on international career mobility and ethical nurse recruitment ‘supports the rights of nurses to pursue professional achievement through career mobility’ but ‘condemns the targeted recruitment of nurses from countries or areas within countries that are experiencing a chronic shortage of nurses and/or a temporary health crisis in which nurses are needed’.

But, last week, health secretary Steve Barclay told the Telegraph the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) is preparing contingency plans for ‘reasonable worst-case scenarios’ ahead of winter and that they intend to hire more overseas nurses from India, Sri Lanka and the Philippines.

Mr Barclay added that internationally qualified nurses who do not meet the English language criteria for registration could work in the social care sector in different job roles.

Some countries have ‘got issues in meeting their own health needs’

Mr Catton disagreed that these countries had a surplus of nurses, adding: ‘There are shortages in India and the Philippines. It's not as though those countries have more nurses than they need. They've got issues in meeting their own health needs.’

A DHSC spokesperson said: ‘Internationally trained staff have been part of the NHS ever since its inception and they continue to play a vital role in helping us tackle the COVID-19 backlogs.

‘We have recently signed bilateral agreements with countries like India, the Philippines, Kenya, Malaysia and Sri Lanka to support the recruitment and training of nurses.’

Nursing Standard Podcast: ICN’s Howard Catton on nurse shortages and why there is a constant struggle to fill rotas


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