Leaked: NHS plans to increase international recruitment by 41% to plug nurse staffing gap

NHS England confirms £29 million investment in international nurse recruits
International recruitment plans include funding flights and accommodation

NHS England confirms £29 million investment in international nurse recruits

Picture shows Philippines Airways aeroplane. International recruitment plans include funding flights for overseas nurses
International recruitment plans include funding flights for overseas nurses Picture: iStock

International nurse recruitment in England must increase by 41% to help reduce nurse vacancy levels, a leaked presentation suggests.

Trusts advised to increase international recruitment to reduce nursing vacancies

First reported by HSJ, the presentation says trusts need to ‘increase annual international recruitment by 41% to significantly reduce our nursing vacancies’.

There were 37,821 full-time-equivalent nursing vacancies in the NHS in England as of June 2020, according to NHS data.

The leaked document outlined how the pandemic has affected international recruitment, including ‘preventing planned arrivals into the UK and restricting NHS ability to interview nurses’.

The number of non-European nurses joining the Nursing and Midwifery Council register plummeted from 1,348 in March to only 35 in April.

But the presentation noted recent improvements with an opportunity to ‘accelerate the recruitment and arrival of international nurses during the remainder of this year and beyond’.

£29 million plan includes flights, welcome packages and accommodation

To support this, the presentation suggests a £29 million commitment:

  • £14 million to realise recruits already appointed but who have not yet arrived in the UK. This money could be used to fund flights, welcome packages and accommodation.
  • £14 million for significant expansion of future nursing international recruitment.
  • £800,000 to support overseas trained nurses working in the NHS in non-nursing roles to pass their English language assessments.

When contacted for comment, an NHS England spokesperson confirmed this funding.

‘International recruitment is part of the NHS People Plan and will bring overseas nurses to the front line to help save countless lives,’ she said.

‘This investment and programme of work will be a boost to nursing numbers right across England.’

Nursing workforce expert says fast-track plan will have 'uncertain results'

Nursing workforce expert James Buchan
James Buchan

Nursing workforce expert James Buchan, from the faculty of health and social sciences at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, said the reliance on international nurses was unsurprising, but it was uncertain if increasing recruitment would pay off.

‘This latest effort is driven by the election promise of having 50,000 more nurses in the NHS and reflects the reality that England has not been training sufficient nurses for its own needs,’ he said.

‘We can anticipate renewed efforts to fast track international nurses over the next couple of years, but this will have uncertain results while we continue to have a pandemic and no vaccine.’

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