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Hospital in Germany seeks to lure Polish nurses worried about Brexit out of UK

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A German hospital is seeking to capitalise on Brexit uncertainty to poach Polish nurses working in the UK.

The University Hospital of Duesseldorf has placed a job advertisement in two Polish weekly newspapers in Britain promising a better life in a European Union member state.

“A lot of them are already looking for opportunities to work in other European countries”

Tobias Pott

The advert targets nurses who have “Brexit worries” and urges them to “come to Germany”.

“Not only do we have the better pay, the better social benefits and better working hours,” the poster says. “We also have the better weather, the better food and the shorter way to Poland. And the security of an EU state.”

University Hospital of Duesseldorf spokesman Tobias Pott told Nursing Times that it was short of at least 100 nurses.

“Almost every German hospital is in desperate need of nursing staff,” Mr Pott said.

“We already expanded the vocational training of nurses in our own school and are foremost recruiting nurses in Germany, but we also need to address professional nurses in other countries as well to have a fast solution,” he added.

Asked why the hospital was focusing on Polish nurses, Mr Pott said it was aware that many had “concerns with Brexit” and were seeking to leave the UK.

“Almost every German hospital is in desperate need of nursing staff”

Tobias Pott

He added that a lot of Poles already spoke German, which was why the advert was mainly written in German as well as some Polish.

“A lot of them are already looking for opportunities to work in other European countries, where there’s still the EU freedom of movement,” Mr Pott said.

“So, we thought: If they are planning to leave anyway, why not towards Germany and the University Hospital of Duesseldorf?,” he added.

He said the hospital would assess the response to this recruitment drive before deciding whether to embark on more campaigns like it.

The UK vote to leave the EU took place in June 2016. Since then the number of nurses and midwives from the European Economic Area joining the UK register for the first time has plummeted by 91%, from 10,178 in 2015-16 to 888 in 2017-18.

Over the same period, the nation has faced a 46% increase in EEA nurses and midwives leaving the register, from 2,435 to 3,560 over the same period, according to latest figures from the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

Meanwhile, prime minister Theresa May is still battling to get her Brexit blueprint backed by parliament, fuelling fears that the UK will crash out of the EU without a deal as the 29 March deadline looms. 

A spokeswoman for the campaign group NHS for a People’s Vote, formerly called NHS Against Brexit, said: “Brexit is in utter shambles at the moment, and the impasse in parliament is having huge effects on the NHS and UK health sector.

“There is a global shortage of nurses and it’s understandable that the German medical sector is using this mess to lure in EU nurses currently working in the NHS,” she said.

alison leary

alison leary

Alison Leary

Professor Alison Leary, a leading London-based academic on nursing workforce issues, stressed that Germany was within its right to recruit overseas operating within a “free employment market” and that the UK had been following similar recruitment methods for years.

Meanwhile, Howard Catton, the new chief executive of the International Council of Nurses, highlighted that the global nursing shortage was estimated to be nine million and, as a consequence, recruitment between countries was becoming “increasingly competitive”.

He told Nursing Times that the reasons for nurse migration were usually a mixture of “push and pull factors” including pay, working conditions, career progression and social and political security, meaning many would only stay in one country for a limited period of time.

Mr Catton, former head of policy at the Royal College of Nursing, said countries should aim for “self-sufficiency” in their nursing workforce.

“Relying on recruitment from overseas, therefore, offers no guarantees beyond the short term and is why countries should strive for self-sufficiency in the supply of their health workforce,” said Mr Catton, who noted that retention was now becoming “even more important” than recruitment for many countries.

Brexit is among the issues due to be explored by the ICN at its congress this summer.

Sue Covill

Sue Covill

Sue Covill

Sue Covill, director of development and employment at NHS Employers, said: “Our EU colleagues make up a significant proportion of the NHS workforce and their contributions are highly valued.

“The UK operates in a highly competitive global market for healthcare professionals,” she added. “It’s important that we have an attractive offer for all of our staff to ensure they feel valued supported and want to stay in the NHS.”

She added that it was “critical” that the UK’s future immigration system out of the EU allowed employers to easily recruit nurses from overseas.

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