The UK is “overly reliant” on recruiting nurses from countries with critical workforce shortages, according to a new report.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said its research suggested that nurses from a third of the world’s most short-staffed countries are being hired in the UK.
New members of the UK nursing workforce include recruits from 14 countries on a “red list” of 47 that the UK Government insists should not be actively recruited from, said the RCN.
Figures from the nursing regulator show a 10-fold increase since the 2019 general election in the number of nurses joining from countries currently identified as having the most severe workforce shortages, according to the college.
The RCN said there were concerns that UK governments are becoming heavily reliant on countries with critical workforce shortages to fill the tens of thousands of nursing vacancies across health and care services.
The body is calling on governments across the UK to invest in expanding the domestic workforce and to introduce bilateral agreements to ensure international recruitment is mutually beneficial for these countries.
International recruitment must be transparent, dignified and ensure that employment of nursing staff in the UK is free from exploitation, said the RCN.
General secretary Pat Cullen said: “Ministers are overly reliant on nurses from countries with critical workforce shortages.
“Meanwhile, their lack of investment in UK nursing staff, both today’s and those of the future, is deeply concerning.
“Our health and care workforce is proudly diverse. International recruitment must be ethical, beyond reproach and come at the same time as increased investment in education and domestic professionals.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We have more nurses working in the NHS than ever before and are well over halfway towards the Government’s target of recruiting 50,000 extra nurses by 2024.
“Internationally trained staff have been part of the NHS since its inception in 1948 and continue to play a vital role, while also benefiting enormously from the opportunity to work in the NHS, both in terms of professional development and economically.
“We do not actively recruit from any of these countries, and we have committed £20 million towards programmes to strengthen the health workforce in a number of developing countries to support them to train, employ and retain a sufficient and skilled health workforce.”