UK ‘now a net importer of nurses’

Published: Wednesday 29th October 2014 by The News Editor

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Nursing leaders have accused health chiefs of focusing on short-term fixes after releasing figures they claim show the UK has become a net importer of nurses for the first time in eight years.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said that the number of overseas nurses registered to work in the UK rose by 45% last year, the first time since 2005/2006 that more have arrived than have left to go and work elsewhere.

It said foreign nurses made up almost a quarter (22%) of all new nurses at a time when student places for British nurses were still fewer than in 2003, despite recent increases.

Both the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) and the Department of Health questioned the findings, saying a registration did not mean that a person was definitely working on wards.

Dr Peter Carter, the RCN chief executive and general secretary, said the UK was now “relying” on foreign nurses.

“Overseas nurses have always provided a valuable service to the NHS, but cuts to student places, poor morale and short-term planning mean that now hospitals are forced to pay over the odds to agencies as they desperately try to fill vacancies,” he said.

“The NHS is one of the greatest health services in the world, training nurses to a world class standard. It shouldn’t have to raid the workforces of other countries just to keep providing care to patients.

“It is common sense that relying on short-term fixes is far more expensive in the long run.

“Yet the UK has been cutting the supply of nurses to save money, then realising too late that patient safety is in danger and paying even more money to recruit from overseas.

“It is the equivalent of relying on payday loans and it is no way to run a health service.”

The RCN obtained the figures in an Freedom of Information request to the NMC.

The RCN said that its FOI showed that in 2013/14 there were 6,228 nursing registrations from abroad – an increase of nearly 45% on the previous year. In the same year 4,379 nurses “left the UK to work overseas”, it said.

The NMC said that the figures related to both nurses and midwives. It added that those the RCN said had left the country had applied for a “verification” – like a reference – which the NMC said allows them to seek work abroad but did not mean they had actually left.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “There are now over 5,600 more nurses on our wards than in 2010, and 3,240 fewer registered nurses from overseas. We have also created 1,000 extra adult nursing training places this year.

“Overseas nurses have always made a valuable contribution to the NHS and the majority of British nurses who work abroad come back to the UK with more experience to help them better look after patients in the UK.”

Published: Wednesday 29th October 2014 by The News Editor

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