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Exploited and lied to – how overseas nurses are mistreated in NHS

Stories of unfair treatment prompt call to lobby trusts for ethical and transparent HR recruitment and employment policies for international nurses
Nurse Ann-Marie Fredericks-Fraser speaking at RCN Congress in Glasgow

Stories of unfair treatment prompt call to lobby trusts for ethical and transparent HR recruitment and employment policies for international nurses

Overseas nurses are being financially exploited, given false information and even separated from their children when they come to the UK.

Nurse Ann-Marie Fredericks-Fraser told how she was forced apart from her three-year-old child for a year when she moved to the UK for work after her daughter was refused entry by the Home Office.

Ms Fredericks-Fraser shared her story as RCN congress in Glasgow debated a resolution to

Stories of unfair treatment prompt call to lobby trusts for ethical and transparent HR recruitment and employment policies for international nurses

Nurse Ann-Marie Fredericks-Fraser speaking at RCN Congress in Glasgow
Nurse Ann-Marie Fredericks-Fraser speaking at RCN Congress Picture: John Houlihan

Overseas nurses are being financially exploited, given false information and even separated from their children when they come to the UK.

Nurse Ann-Marie Fredericks-Fraser told how she was forced apart from her three-year-old child for a year when she moved to the UK for work after her daughter was refused entry by the Home Office.

Ms Fredericks-Fraser shared her story as RCN congress in Glasgow debated a resolution to lobby employers to provide ethical and transparent HR recruitment and employment policies for international nurses. The motion was carried with a majority of members in favour.

Zeba Arif
Zeba Arif Picture: John Houlihan

Former chair of the RCN national forensic nursing forum Zeba Arif, who tabled the motion, said overseas nurses should be given the same contracts as their UK NHS colleagues as well as opportunities to develop their careers.

Nurses falsely told they will be fast-tracked for promotion

‘The UK are asking these nurses to leave their homes to come here to help us with healthcare,’ she said. ‘They have the same skills, the same experience. They should have equal opportunities and rights.’

Another member told how nurses are being given false information by recruitment agencies and are often told they will be fast-tracked for promotions when they arrive in the UK, while others are being tied to financially crippling contracts which mean they are unable to return home.

‘As an overseas nurse we feel between a rock and a hard place,’ said Macharia Macharia, originally from Kenya and now working in the West Midlands.

Macharia Macharia
Macharia Macharia Picture: John Houlihan

‘It’s unethical for the NHS and politicians to use us as “cheap labour”. It’s unethical for them to undercut you as overseas nurses, and if we ask for the same they tell us “good riddance”. Until there is ethical recruitment of international nurses, and equitable pay, we cannot have better pay and safe staffing for everyone.’

Call to involve overseas nurses in lobbying of trusts

Nurse Jackie Wood said the current system amounted to exploitation and that ‘it should be mandatory for every NHS trust to have ethical recruitment policies’.

International recruitment is at a record high, with 23,408 overseas nurses joining the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) register in the year ended in March.

Ms Fredericks-Fraser said any lobbying of trusts must involve overseas nurses . She said: ‘I ask that we be directly involved in these discussions. As these practices continue our nursing profession suffers.

‘We must act to involve overseas nurses in change, as let’s face it until you’ve walked a mile in my shoes you will never understand my journey.’


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