NHS leaders have promised a “step change” in the recruitment of international nurses in order to try and bridge domestic shortfalls, as part of their new long-term plan for the health service in England.
They have also said they are planning to work with the government to ensure nurses and other in-demand employees are provided with certainty, post-Brexit.
“This will mean a step change in the recruitment of international nurses to work in the NHS”
NHS Long Term Plan
The NHS Long Term Plan, published today, has outlined strategies and ideas for international recruitment among the nursing workforce. According to the fourth chapter, which is specifically for the workforce, the NHS must recruit nursing employees from other countries to help staff shortages.
In the longer-term, the plan wants to ensure the NHS is training more of the people it needs, domestically, however due to the time it takes to train nurses and doctors, for the short-term, it stated that high-skilled people from other countries must be recruited.
“In the longer-term, we need to ensure we are training more of the people we need domestically,” it said. “But this will take time given it takes three years to train a nurse… so in the short-term we must also continue to ensure that high-skilled people from other countries from whom it is ethical to recruit are able to join the NHS.”
The plan explained that this will mean a “step change in the recruitment of international nurses to work in the NHS”, adding that it expected an increase of “several thousand” nurses supplied each year from other countries over the next five years. Though doing so will “require central support” for trusts, it noted.
Therefore, a separate health service workforce implementation plan, which is due later this year, “will set out new national arrangements to support NHS organisations in recruiting overseas”, the plan explained.
Meanwhile, the new plan highlighted how NHS England would work with the government after the UK exits the European Union to ensure health and social care workers have a post-Brexit migration system that provided them with “necessary certainty” – particularly for shortage roles.
The plan said that professional regulatory bodies, such as the Nursing and Midwivery Council, have a “significant role in enabling the recruitment and employment of appropriately trained overseas professionals in the UK”.
It added that it was “critical” that those looking to register to work in the UK could move through regulatory processes “quickly”.
In addition, the plan highlighted that the NMC would also be updating the English language testing requirements for overseas nurses for 2019.
As previously reported by Nursing Times, the NMC plans to relax the International English Language Test (IELTS) requirements for international nurses and midwives, meaning the pass level for the writing element of the test will be lowered to 6.5 from 7.
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NHS England will “continue to work with regulators to ensure that language competency and international registration processes are proportionate to risk and responsive to need”, added the plan.
Responding to the plan, the NMC’s interim chief executive and registrar, Sue Killen, said: “The plan recognises the vital contribution that those trained outside the UK make to our NHS.
“As part of our commitment to supporting better, safer care, we’re continuing to improve the way we register nurses and midwives to ensure that those with the right skills can join our register in the quickest and most straightforward way possible,” she said.
Data presented during an NMC council meeting in July showed an 86% increase in the number of nurses and midwives joining the register from outside the EU in the preceding three months.
The average number joining each month increased to 440 between April and June 2018, compared with an average of 237 per month in the previous nine.
At the end of June 2018, there were 69,425 nurses and midwives on the register from outside the EU compared with 67,534 in July 2017 – an increase of nearly 2,000.
In contrast, other NMC figures have shown that the number of new nurses coming from the EU to work in the UK has dropped by 87%, from 6,382 in 2016-17 to 805 in 2017-18.
- Rise in nurses and midwives joining register from outside EU
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The new 10-year plan for the health service was published at 12pm today, after being delayed since the end of last year – reportedly due to the chaos around Brexit.
The blueprint sets out how the £20.5bn annual budget increase for the health service, which was promised last summer by prime minister Theresa May, will be spent.
Ahead of its publication, some of the main aims and innovations to be included in the plan were revealed in a statement by NHS England.
Maternity care, children’s services, cancer care, mental health and heart disease were all highlighted as being set to benefit, along with funding boosts for community care, digital technology and prevention.
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The last time a 10-year strategy document was drawn up covering the whole health service in England was the NHS Plan, which was published in 2000 by the Labour government under Tony Blair.