Nurse migration: steep rise in requests to practise outside UK
Surge in number of NMC registrants applying to work abroad points to deteriorating working conditions at home as a result of chronic staff shortages
The number of nurses leaving Scotland to work abroad has shot up, sparking fears of an exodus in search of better working conditions.
A total of 583 nurses and midwives sought proof of Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) registration for the purpose of working overseas last year. This was up 62% on the previous year when the figure was 358, and is more than double the number wishing to relocate in 2018-19 (248).
Most popular countries for nurse emigration from Scotland
Australia was by far the most popular destination, with 359 nurses moving there from Scotland in 2022-23. This was followed by New Zealand with 66 nurses seeking to practise there, while 46 said they wanted to move to the US.
The data, obtained by a freedom of information request, show the number of registrants living in Scotland who applied to the NMC for a certificate of current professional status, which is needed to practise abroad. When applying for a certificate, nurses must state their proposed destination country.
Other popular destinations in 2022-23 included Ireland with 39 submissions, Canada (26) and the United Arab Emirates (18).
Symptom of difficult working conditions for nurses
Pro-UK-union campaign group Scotland in Union, which requested the data, said the sharp rise in applications was a symptom of UK-wide struggles to deal with widespread nursing vacancies.
‘Working conditions for so many nurses and midwives in Scotland’s NHS are so poor they have decided their future lies elsewhere,’ said its chief executive Pamela Nash.
She called on Scottish ministers to set out clear plans to recruit and retain more nurses.
NHS terms and conditions reforms ‘most progressive in decades’
The Holyrood government said it was working to address workforce issues, citing its recent NHS pay award of an average 6.5%, making nurses there the best paid in the UK.
A spokesperson said: ‘This £568 million deal included a commitment to deliver the most progressive package of terms and conditions reform in decades and support for workforce recruitment, sustainability and retention.’
The government set up a taskforce earlier this year to look at how Scotland’s nursing workforce can be expanded.
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