NHS to step up nurse recruitment overseas, says leaked workforce report

Interim plan admits extra overseas recruitment will have limited impact on nurse vacancies

Interim plan admits extra overseas recruitment will have limited impact on nurse vacancies

Picture: Alamy

The NHS is to intensify global recruitment of nurses to plug staffing gaps, according to a leaked interim report. 

Five thousand nurses need to be recruited every year for the next five years from countries such as the Philippines, India, Republic of Ireland and Australia, the Times quotes the workforce report as saying. This figure is in sharp contrast to the 1,600 overseas nurses taken on by the NHS in England last year.

The ‘most urgent’ workforce issue

The leaked NHS workforce implementation plan is said to warn that ‘shortages in nursing are the single biggest and most urgent’ problem facing the NHS workforce.

The final version of the plan will outline strategies for meeting the aims of the recently-published NHS Long Term Plan and is due to be published soon.

However, the interim document is said to acknowledge that even by stepping up overseas recruitment, the current 40,000 shortfall of nurses in the NHS in England would only come down to 38,000 in 2024. The authors, commissioned by NHS Improvement and including the RCN and other royal colleges, even warn the gap could widen to 68,500 if left unaddressed.

The report states overworked nurses and doctors are leaving because of a failure in workforce planning, the Times says.

‘It’s inappropriate to rely on overseas nurses’

RCN general secretary Dame Donna Kinnair said: ‘It is sad that nursing in England has been allowed to get to this state through a lack of accountability.

'We were a part of writing this plan and it is right to acknowledge the difficulties and focus on finding solutions.

‘There must be serious investment, which can only be done by increasing the number of student nurses here in the UK and supporting the nurses we already have. It is inappropriate for us to rely on a steady stream of overseas nurse.’

A department of health and social care spokesperson said it does not comment on leaks, adding the 'people plan' would be published later this year.

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