New figures have revealed that in excess of one in five NHS nurses are foreigners.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has criticised these findings and said this is ‘no way to run a health service’. These figures have soared by almost 50% in one year.
The chief executive of the RCN, Dr Peter Carter, said it is common sense that the reliance on short-term solutions is more expensive in the long-term. However, the UK has been lowering the supply of nurses in a bid to save money and then realised that patient safety was in danger, so they pay more to recruit nurses from abroad.
He said this is similar to relying on payday loans and the health service should not be managed in this fashion.
The new figures revealed that for the first time in almost 10 years, the UK is now importing more nursing staff than it is exporting.
The RCN claims that the NHS is currently struggling due to a desperate funds shortage and this scramble to lure foreign nurses to Britain is wasting millions of pounds.
The figures were obtained from Freedom of Information requests by the RCN, to the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). It indicated that during 2013/14, 6228 nurses from abroad registered. This is an increase of almost 45%, compared with the previous year. During the same period, 4379 nurses left Britain to take employment overseas. This is the first time since 2005/2006 that more foreign nurses have registered compared to those who have left to work overseas, with 22% coming from abroad during 2013/14.
During the last year, a number of reports by experts, including Sir Bruce Keogh and Sir Robert Francis, placed focus on the importance of safe staffing, and this resulted in a desperate recruitment drive by the hospital trusts.
However, the RCN states that the reduction in nurse education placements during the previous years has caught up with the NHS as it has resulted in a shortage of local nurses.
The RCN has issued warnings that the situation will become worse as student places have declined since 2003, in spite of recent increases, along with an aging workforce. Almost half of the nurses employed by the NHS in England are aged 45 or over.
Dr Carter said that no country should be reliant on outside sources to offer their people important healthcare, however, that is the situation Britain has found itself to be in.
He stated that foreign nurses have always offered a valuable service to the NHS, but poor morale, short-term planning and cuts to student places has resulted in hospitals being forced to pay high costs to agencies to try and fill the vacancies.
He added that the NHS is one of the best health services worldwide, where nurses are trained to a world class standard. He said it should not have to raid the workforces of other countries simply to keep offering adequate care to patients.
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