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NHS Looks To Foreign Nurses As Staff Shortage Addressed

The NHS Has Defended Its Policy Of Sourcing Nurses From Abroad


The NHS shortage of nurses has led trusts across the country to poach workers from abroad, according to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by the Nursing Times.

Of the 105 authorities that responded to the publication's FOI, some 40 admitted to recruiting staff from abroad over the past 12 months and a further 41 planned to carry out this headhunting method in 2014.

Spain and Portugal were by far the biggest markets for incoming nurses and 1,000 of the 1,360 recorded recent recruits came from the Iberian Peninsula, which has faced a devastating economic collapse and record levels of unemployment.

Ireland contributed 155 workers and some 111 Filipino workers made the journey from south-east Asia to settle in the UK.

But concerns have been raised over the English-language abilities of many of the nurses that come over from other EU countries, as regulations from the bloc prevent speaking and listening tests from being carried out on people from these countries.

Dr Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: "This is symptomatic of the short-term, boom-and-bust workforce planning which is endemic in the NHS.

"It is frankly perplexing that on the one hand nursing posts are being cut and training places being reduced, while on the other, desperate managers are raiding overseas workforces."

Coalition figures have defended their handling of nursing numbers recently and secretary of state for health Jeremy Hunt has attempted to highlight that many NHS users have complimented the service for a recent improvement in standards.

But some patient groups have hit out at the government for its role in cutting jobs in the NHS and argue that poor English-language skills are a blight on care across the country.

Labour has proposed that there should be a UK recruitment drive for nurses and more attempts should be made to get young, unemployed people from poorer areas to train in this vocation.

Expert Opinion
This research has put a spotlight on the various workforce issues being faced by the NHS at present and it is vital that the organisation ensures workers from abroad are subjected to the adequate communication and skills checks.

“Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to see instances when patients have suffered as a result of substandard care or errors in treatment which emerged as a result of communication problems, so the importance of this point in particular cannot be underestimated.

“Fundamentally, being able to communicate complex information to patients and other medical professionals is a vital part of the provision of safe care and treatment.”
Lisa Jordan, Partner