Editorial

NHS needs a workforce plan, not border control

History was made in Bournemouth on Sunday evening. A small, but momentous slice of nursing history was witnessed by around 1,000 RCN members, with many more following events online. Cecilia Anim, a black woman from Ghana, stood before the college’s annual conference and addressed the audience as its elected president and professional leader.

History was made in Bournemouth on Sunday evening. A small, but momentous slice of nursing history was witnessed by around 1,000 RCN members, with many more following events online. Cecilia Anim, a black woman from Ghana, stood before the college’s annual conference and addressed the audience as its elected president and professional leader.

Her climb through the ranks from activist to deputy president and now to the top job is remarkable, not least because in nursing, as in almost every walk of life, black women progress despite their ethnicity and gender, not because of it. On being presented with the chain of office, Ms Anim was bursting with pride, and rightly so.

This policy is mean and short-sighted – overseas staff are invaluable

She opened her first presidential address by paying tribute to her family and professional colleagues who have helped her along the way, before making a more political point. Without nurses from Ghana and other nations around the world, the NHS would grind to a halt. Yet the government is cracking down on nurses who have come here in recent years, threatening to send home any who do not earn more than £35,000 a year. Not many do.

This policy is mean and short-sighted. To make matters worse, the reason NHS managers have scoured the world for nursing staff in recent years is a direct result of successive governments’ boom-and-bust approach to workforce planning. Now some of those who have come here and have been providing invaluable care face removal against their will.

RCN general secretary Peter Carter, who is attending his final congress as college leader, says the government’s policy will cause chaos. ‘At a time when demand is increasing, the UK is perversely making it harder to employ staff from overseas,’ he said.

It is true that aggressive recruitment from countries that barely have enough nurses of their own is unethical and unacceptable, but the government should plan workforce numbers better, not send home those who came here to help.

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