Figures reveal 80% of new nurses hired from overseas

Four out of five nurses hired in NHS hospitals in the last year were recruited from overseas, new figures suggest.

Three quarters of all 140 acute hospital trusts in England filled a shortfall in registered nurses with 5,778 foreign staff, according to an investigation by the Health Service Journal (HSJ).

But experts have warned overseas recruitment was just a “Band Aid” on the “serious” shortage of UK-based nurses.

Health and Social Care Information Centre data shows an overall increase of 7,111 in full-time positions during the same period, which HSJ said indicated four-fifths of the new intake were from overseas.

Southampton University principal research fellow Professor Jane Ball, a nursing workforce expert, said: “This shows we are in a serious shortage of nurses and it is a shortage that has been waiting to be realised, it is not new or sudden.

“This is about uncovering what has been a growing, deepening problem that the NHS decided not to focus on because of financial pressures and other challenges.”

Spain, Portugal and the Philippines provided more than 3,700 nurses combined in the last 12 months to September, while fourteen trusts each hired more than 100 nurses.

Meanwhile, King’s College Hospital in south London, recruited a total of 276 – higher than any other trust.

Ninety-three hospital trusts indicated they would continue to recruit foreign nurses in the same period next year, with 32 suggesting they would seek to hire a combined 1,800 more.

Dr Peter Carter of the Royal College of Nursing, told the Daily Mail there was an “astonishing over-reliance” on overseas staff.

“The last few years have seen real panic-buying of nurses from wherever they can be found, to keep care safe,” he said.

Unison’s head of health Christina McAnea welcomed the increase in nursing posts but said the shortage was as a result of a “lack of focus on workforce planning over a number of years”.

She warned: “While it is good news to see trusts increasing numbers of nurses we can’t keep asking NHS staff to pay for it.”

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: “Individual trusts are responsible for planning and recruiting their workforce, but it is important to note that overseas nurses have always made a valuable contribution to the NHS.”

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