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Recruit more nurses from the UK, not overseas, says Starmer

Labour leader says immigration is not the solution to tackling record nurse vacancies, and calls for fully funded training places to attract domestic recruits

Labour leader says immigration is not the solution to tackling record nurse vacancies, and calls for fully funded training places to attract domestic recruits

The NHS is recruiting too many healthcare workers – including nurses – from overseas, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said.

He called for more domestic recruitment as well as fully funded training places to increase the number of nursing and other healthcare students joining the health service.

‘Those [domestic] numbers can go up and I think they should go up across the UK, but we need funded places to drive them up,’

Labour leader says immigration is not the solution to tackling record nurse vacancies, and calls for fully funded training places to attract domestic recruits

Picture: BBC

The NHS is recruiting too many healthcare workers – including nurses – from overseas, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said.

He called for more domestic recruitment as well as fully funded training places to increase the number of nursing and other healthcare students joining the health service.

‘Those [domestic] numbers can go up and I think they should go up across the UK, but we need funded places to drive them up,’ he said in an interview on BBC Scotland’s The Sunday Show.

Interviewer questions whether domestic recruitment would be enough

Sir Keir said relying on immigration was not the solution to tackling record staff vacancies, despite host Martin Geissler suggesting people in Scotland ‘just don’t want to join the NHS’.

‘There are places vacant that are being funded by the Scottish Government for midwifery and nursing that can’t be filled because people just don’t want to join the NHS. So if we don’t get them from here, where do we get them from?’ Mr Geissler asked.

Sir Keir said: ‘I think we should be training people in this country, of course we need immigration but we need to train people here.’

Nurse vacancies on the increase

Official figures show there were around 6,200 nursing and midwifery vacancies in the NHS in Scotland as of March this year, up 38% from around 4,500 the previous year.

Nursing vacancies in England hit a record high of 47,000 earlier this year, while the RCN in Wales estimates there are around 2,900 vacancies in the country’s NHS.

Sir Keir Starmer being interviewed by Martin Geissler on The Sunday Show. Picture: BBC

Labour adds to existing criticism of overseas recruitment

The UK has repeatedly come under fire for its over-reliance on international recruitment of healthcare workers, with workforce experts and unions warning it is not an effective long-term solution to the NHS staffing crisis.

Almost half of nurses joining the UK register in the last year were from overseas. Two of the top five countries for recruitment were on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) red list in 2021-22, meaning active recruitment was not permitted from these countries.

Governments driving international recruitment

In a bid to bolster the NHS this winter, Scottish health secretary Humza Yousaf earmarked £8 million from the current year’s budget to recruit 1,000 new NHS staff, including 750 nurses, midwives and allied health professionals, from overseas.

Meanwhile, NHS England recently announced plans to pay NHS trusts up to £7,000 per overseas nurse coming into the UK in a bid to plug the workforce shortage. And as part of its bid to increase overseas recruitment, the Department of Health and Social Care signed an ‘ethical recruitment’ deal with the Nepalese government for 100 nurses to work in the UK in a pilot scheme – despite Nepal being on WHO’s ‘red list’.


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