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COVID-19: doubt over future numbers of overseas nurses coming to UK

Report says international supply will be hit by travel restrictions and increased competition
Picture of a plane on an airport runway. Overseas recruitment will be hit by travel disruptions. Picture: iStock

Analysis says international supply will be disrupted by travel restrictions and increased competition

The UKs reliance on overseas-trained nurses means it could be affected by increased competition in international recruitment post-COVID-19 pandemic, a new analysis warns .

A Health Foundation study found that, with 15% of all registered nurses in the UK overseas-trained, the country has more than double the average number of international nurses compared with other similar high-income countries.

However, the number of non-European Economic Area (EEA) nurses joining the permanent register plummeted from 1,348 in March to only 35 in April this year, as the COVID-19 pandemic prevented international travel.

Travel disruptions affect global

Analysis says international supply will be disrupted by travel restrictions and increased competition

 iStock
Picture: iStock

The UK’s reliance on overseas-trained nurses means it could be affected by increased competition in international recruitment post-COVID-19 pandemic, a new analysis warns.

A Health Foundation study found that, with 15% of all registered nurses in the UK overseas-trained, the country has more than double the average number of international nurses compared with other similar high-income countries.

However, the number of non-European Economic Area (EEA) nurses joining the permanent register plummeted from 1,348 in March to only 35 in April this year, as the COVID-19 pandemic prevented international travel.

Travel disruptions affect global recruitment supply model

 Barney Newman
Ruth May Picture: Barney Newman

The report authors suggest that the global disruption to recruitment and travel caused by COVID-19 has called into question the effectiveness of the international nurse supply route.

On 20 July England’s chief nursing officer Ruth May told the Commons public accounts committee there were more than 6,000 overseas nurses ready and wanting to travel to work at NHS organisations.

NHS needs more funding to compete internationally and employ trained nurses

The Health Foundation research authors agreed there was ‘a pent-up supply of international nurses from countries such as the Philippines’ waiting to travel for work, but said once travel restrictions ease other issues could arise.

‘In a post-COVID-19 world, the UK will have to compete with other OECD [Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development] countries looking to reduce their own nurse staffing shortfalls, such as Germany,’ they wrote.

’The real question is not whether the UK can recruit more international nurses, but whether the NHS has the funding to employ them.’

The authors also warned that increasing active international recruitment by the UK could damage fragile health systems in countries already struggling to deal with the pandemic due to inadequate nurse numbers.

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