Overseas recruitment: UK urged to offset its ‘nursing footprint’

International Council of Nurses head Howard Catton says UK must redress the ‘catastrophic’ impact of its recruitment on poorer countries

International Council of Nurses head Howard Catton says UK must redress the ‘catastrophic’ impact of its recruitment on poorer countries

ICN chief executive Howard Catton. Picture: Barney Newman

The UK should offset its ‘nursing footprint’ as it ‘aggressively’ recruits from countries struggling with nursing shortages, according to the International Council of Nurses (ICN).

Addressing the Queen’s Nursing Institute (QNI) annual conference yesterday, ICN chief executive Howard Catton said strong economies such as the UK should be compelled to offset the ‘catastrophic’ impact of their recruitment on poorer countries, just as they would for carbon emissions.

Specialist skills being drained from poorer countries

‘Nepal has about 60,000 nurses, whereas the UK has 600,000,’ said Mr Catton. ‘How do we justify recruitment from countries who can least afford it?

‘And it's not just a question of numbers – a lot of recruiters target people with advanced and specialist skills. The impact of even one or two of those people going can be catastrophic on the delivery of health services.’

UK to recruit nurses from ‘red list’ country

In August the government struck an agreement with Nepal to supply nurses to the NHS in England, despite the country being on the World Health Organization workforce red list, meaning active recruitment of health professionals is not allowed because of the country’s workforce shortages.

The deal between the two governments will start with a pilot of 100 healthcare workers, but could lead to thousands of nurses moving to the UK for work from the red list country.

The agreement comes as the latest Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) annual registration data shows that 3,000 nurses joined from Nigeria in the past year – a country also on the red list.

Little evidence of sharing and learning between countries, says ICN

In its memorandum of understanding, the government pledges that recruitment from Nepal will be ethical and bilateral, but Mr Hatton says there is no way of monitoring this.

‘If you think about it like climate change and how we offset carbon, our behaviours which we know are damaging to the environment, how do we offset the detrimental negative impacts on their health systems?’ said Mr Catton.

‘I hear words about mutual sharing and learning, but I don’t see the evidence of this happening. Show me some hard evidence. How about we invest in a nursing school in Nepal, or in any country that we're recruiting from? There is much more to be done.’

The Department of Health and Social Care has been approached for comment.

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