The NHS is looking to recruit up to 5,500 overseas nurses from India and the Philippines in an “earn, learn and return” scheme to plug staff shortages, according to the national workforce planning body.
Indian nurses have been brought to England to work for a set time, Health Education England chief executive Ian Cumming told an influential group of MPs earlier this week.
“We believe that doing that way is more ethically robust”
He told the Commons health select committee on Tuesday that a pilot scheme had already begun in Harrogate in Yorkshire.
Under the scheme, Professor Cumming said he hoped that 500 nurses would subsequently come from India by the end of March and eventually 5,500 international nurses would be recruited.
Talks are under way on a similar scheme with the Philippines, he added during the committee’s evidence session on the nursing workforce on 28 November.
His comments on specific recruitment targets follow revelations that HEE was in talks with one of India’s largest healthcare providers about setting up the scheme, as reported by Nursing Times.
The national education and training body confirmed in June that it was in talks with the Apollo Hospitals to provide postgraduate training in the NHS to nurses from India for a limited period.
HEE and Apollo already have an existing memorandum of understanding on sharing staff and training opportunities, which was signed in 2015 and has been used to source GPs.
The initiative comes as latest figures continue to show that the previous pipeline of nurses from European Union countries has almost dried up in the wake of the vote in favour of Brexit.
- ‘Stark’ decline in EU nurses coming to work in UK continues
- EU nurses leaving NHS, warns RCN ahead of Article 50
- Significant drop in EU nurse numbers ’for first time in years
There has also been a significant reduction in applicants for nursing degree courses in England, in the wake of the government’s decision to stop student bursaries.
- Figures show nursing degree applicants still down by 23%
- Nursing degree applicants fall 23% in wake of bursary loss
- Universities warn of drop in applicants for nursing courses
In addition, individually, some trusts are adopting the same tactics and turning to India and the Philppines as potential sources of nurse recruitment, as reported last month by Nursing Times.
On Tuesday, Mr Cumming said: “We are currently aiming to bring somewhere in the region of 5,500 nurses into the country internationally on an ethically-based ‘earn, learn and return’ programme.
“We have started piloting this with India,” he said. “The idea is that registered nurses from India would meet the requirements of the Nursing and Midwifery Council.
“They would come and work in this country in placements that we are facilitating and whilst they were here they would gain postgraduate experience in a particular area – be it intensive care or theatres or emergency medicine or whatever it maybe – whilst working for us,” he said.
“At the end of their time here, they would return to India, back to the employer they had partnered with, and take that skill set back into the country from which they had come,” said Mr Cumming.
He added: “The first pilot cohort are here and they’re in Harrogate at the moment and we are aiming to have 500 here by the end of March, building towards the indicative figure of 5,500.
“We believe that doing that way is more ethically robust, in that we aren’t denuding a country of their valued resource,” he told the MPs.
“But we allowing people to come here for a fixed period of time, yes, to help us with a staffing shortage that we have got, but also to learn, to earn money and to take that back into their own country,” he said.