UK to look overseas for care home nursing staff, despite concerns

Health secretary Steve Barclay says NHS will recruit from countries such as the Philippines and India, amid warnings about over-reliance on foreign workers

Health secretary Steve Barclay says NHS will recruit from countries such as the Philippines and India, amid warnings about over-reliance on foreign workers

Steve Barclay
Health secretary Steve Barclay. Picture: Alamy

The government is considering plans to send NHS managers overseas to recruit thousands of foreign nurses for UK care homes amid concerns about staff shortages this winter, it has been reported.

Health secretary Steve Barclay told the Times that he wants NHS leaders to visit countries such as India and the Philippines for a major recruitment spree, as the NHS and social care sector face huge vacancies and are struggling to retain staff.

Swifter recruitment of social care staff from overseas

Mr Barclay is also planning to make it easier for regulators to check international qualifications so that staff can begin working more quickly.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘Our new international recruitment taskforce is considering innovative ways to boost staffing numbers within health and adult social care.

‘As part of this, we will work with the sector and recruitment experts to examine how to recruit staff from overseas more effectively into adult social care.’

Concerns about ‘over-reliance’ on international recruitment

But the plans come just two weeks after concerns were expressed about NHS staffing in England, with a study of workforce figures finding the health service may be becoming over-reliant on recruits from abroad.

Figures from NHS Digital showed the share of healthcare staff recruited from overseas almost doubled between 2014 and 2021, according to a BBC analysis.

And a Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) report from March showed half of new registrants were trained internationally, including registrations from several ‘red list’ countries – with more than 7,000 from Nigeria.

The government’s Code of practice for international recruitment says health or care professionals should not be actively recruited from some developing countries.

Yet, the latest data from the NMC register shows there are nurse registrants from 18 red list countries, and new registrants this year came from 14 red list countries.

UK must ‘get smarter’ to improve retention

Queen’s Nursing Institute chief executive Crystal Oldman warned that the UK ‘cannot rely on a pipeline of students to be coming in internationally year on year’.

She added: ‘Nurses who have trained in other countries bring a whole different skill set and perspective to us. And there is so much for us to learn from our international recruits.

‘But we cannot rely on that. It is not fair to the other countries that they are coming from to deplete their nursing workforce. We need to get smarter about retention.’

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