Importing overseas nurses hides 'gaping wound' within NHS, warns nursing chief

18 May 2022, 15:45 | Updated: 18 May 2022, 16:59

'We simply cannot afford to lose nurses.'

By Tim Dodd

The government is not improving "domestic supply of nurses" and is instead relying on the "short sighted" recruitment of overseas nurses, argues the Royal College of Nursing's Deputy Director of Nursing Lisa Elliott.

It comes as new figures show more than 27,000 nurses and midwives quit the NHS last year, with many blaming retirement, personal circumstances, or "too much pressure" in the job.

While the figures suggest an overall increase in the number of staff - with some 758,300 now registered to work in Britain - concerns have been raised about the rising number of people leaving the register.

A total of 27,133 people left the NMC register in 2021/22 - 13% more than the year before.

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Speaking to Shelagh Fogarty, Ms Elliott said: "This is a huge problem... We're seeing more nurses now leaving the profession, and that is hugely worrying as we simply cannot afford to lose nurses.

"At the moment, we're looking at tens of thousands of nurse vacancies across health and social care. And so what that basically means, is you've got nurses on wards out there looking after patients who are much more stretched than they ever have been before.

"How long do we expect nurses to be able to work under this level of pressure?"

Ms Elliott said that overseas nurses were welcomed but that such recruitment is "short sighted, it's a sticking plaster over a gaping wound".

"What we're not doing is actually improving our domestic supply of nurses. We're not training enough nurses to actually keep up with demand and keep up with the vacancies that we have," she said.

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Concerns have been raised about the UK's overreliance on overseas nurses and midwives after new figures suggest that a significant number of new workers come from abroad.

Almost half (48%) of the 48,436 people who joined the nursing and midwifery workforce in the last year have come from different countries, with the vast majority (66%) coming from India and the Philippines.

Ms Elliott continued: "So although we're hearing from government, that they've recruited more, they're recruiting more nurses than they ever have done before, unfortunately what we're seeing is more nurses leaving, and we're not even actually making a dent in the tens of thousands of vacancies that we have.

"We have 40,000 nurse vacancies in the NHS in England alone."

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