Personal Injury, Serious Injury & Clinical Negligence

Nursing: what a carry on

The boss of an NHS Trust has hit out at Health Education England (“HEE”) for failing to provide enough home grown nursing talent.

Dr Keith McNeil of Addenbrooke Hospital in Cambridge has urged HEE to develop resources to improve the recruitment of nurses within the UK. Dr McNeil revealed that Cambridge University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust was forced to take on 303 foreign nurses in the past year, at significantly higher cost to that if UK talent had been available.

Whilst Dr McNeil is not critical of the quality of nursing care offered by foreign recruits, his Trust is frequently forced to fund language courses and other support services to assist with technical and clinical language before these nurses can be properly utilised. The Trust also contributes £400 to their first month’s rent provided they stay in their job for 18 months. This is all estimated to cost £3,000 per new recruit. Dr McNeil was forced to spend an extra £909,000 on recruitment in the last 12 months. These costs would not be incurred if nurses were recruited within the UK.

Dr McNeil said “It’s distracting, frustrating and expensive to do international recruitment. It would be nice to not have to do it … we don’t have enough home-grown nurses, but we know the demographics. The health service has to figure out what resources are needed for our activity. We need proper planning; I think the people at Health Education England are doing that now”.

The problem is certainly not due to a lack of interest in nursing by UK residents, with 57,000 applying for 20,000 training posts last year. “Isn’t that a matter of huge regret that you’ve got people in the four countries of the UK who want to train as nurses” the Head of the Royal College of Nursing, Peter Carter, has said. “They’re being turned away, while we’re going off and raiding the often impoverished workforce of other countries”.

HEE has responded to the call for greater investment in UK recruitment, saying it has increased places for trainee nurses by 14% in two years. They have also launched the “Return to Practice” initiative aimed at getting experienced nurses back into practice, which has 1,300 participants already, 160 of which are now back in work.