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Recruiting nurses from Nepal slammed as ‘sign of desperation’

Workforce expert critical of DHSC scheme to let 100 nurses work at an NHS trust despite a global ban on recruiting from Nepal due to its own shortages

Workforce expert critical of DHSC scheme to let 100 nurses work at an NHS trust despite a global ban on recruiting from Nepal due to its own shortages

Recruiting nurses from Nepal in a bid to plug the UK’s workforce shortage has been branded a ‘sign of desperation and concern’ by a workforce expert.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) this week signed an ‘ethical recruitment’ deal with the Nepalese government for around 100 nurses to work at Hampshire Hospital Foundation Trust in a pilot scheme.

Red and amber lists based on World Health Organization’s support and

Workforce expert critical of DHSC scheme to let 100 nurses work at an NHS trust despite a global ban on recruiting from Nepal due to its own shortages

Around 100 Nepalese nurses are to work in a pilot scheme at a an NHS trust
Despite workforce shortages in Nepal, around 100 Nepalese nurses are to work in a pilot scheme at an NHS trust. Picture: Sunil Sharma/Xinhua/Alamy Live News

Recruiting nurses from Nepal in a bid to plug the UK’s workforce shortage has been branded a ‘sign of desperation and concern’ by a workforce expert.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) this week signed an ‘ethical recruitment’ deal with the Nepalese government for around 100 nurses to work at Hampshire Hospital Foundation Trust in a pilot scheme.

Red and amber lists based on World Health Organization’s support and safeguards list

This is despite a global ban on actively recruiting from the country, which was included on the government’s ‘red list’ – meaning active recruitment of health professionals was not allowed because of its own workforce shortages.

Since the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the two governments was signed, Nepal appears to have been moved to the ‘amber list’ on the Government’s website. NHS Employers still lists Nepal as a ‘red list’ country, but includes a note to say ‘no active recruitment should take place outside of the conditions of the MOU’.

Red and amber lists are based on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) own health workforce support and safeguards list.

What is the memorandum of understanding between the UK and Nepal?

  • The memorandum of understanding is an agreement between the UK and Nepalese governments on the ‘ethical recruitment’ of Nepalese healthcare workers
  • The UK is aiming to employ up to 100 nurses as part of a 15-month pilot at Hampshire Hospital Foundation Trust, after which the DHSC will ‘hold discussions on whether to widen recruitment to other employers’
  • This is the first health worker recruitment agreement signed with a country on the WHO health workforce support and safeguards list 2020
  • The recruitment ‘red list’ prevents active international recruitment, unless there is a ‘government-to-government’ agreement – which supports managed recruitment activities

Recruiting more overseas nurses is ‘just filling a leaky bucket’, says workforce expert

Professor Alison Leary, chair of healthcare and workforce modelling at London South Bank University, criticised the move as a ‘sign of desperation and concern’.

‘The red list countries are also in desperate need of nurses and the ethics of actively recruiting from them are questionable when so much more could be done to retain staff in the UK. Without addressing retention, recruiting more international staff is just filling a leaky bucket,’ she told Nursing Standard.

Who can apply for the scheme?

Nepalese officials said nurses aged between 25 and 45 will be able to apply for the scheme, provided they hold an active professional license from the Nepal Nursing Council and at least two years’ experience working in a registered hospital in Nepal. They also said those applying for the scheme can expect to earn between £27,000 and £32,000 and not be lumped with extra fees.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) told Nursing Standard nurses trained in Nepal will need to ‘successfully register with [the NMC] via the test of competence route before working in the UK as a nurse’. That includes passing the English language test currently being reviewed.

The move comes in a bid to address a shortage of more than 50,000 nurses and midwives contributing to dire workforce conditions across the NHS.

It comes just weeks after concerns were expressed about the NHS in England being over-reliant on recruits from abroad.

International Council of Nurses chief executive Howard Catton has also warned the UK is becoming increasingly reliant on nurses from countries that face critical workforce shortages themselves. He said the UK needs to have stronger ethical codes around the recruitment of nurses from low-income and red-list countries.

A DHSC spokesperson said: ‘Internationally trained staff have been part of the NHS since its inception in 1948 and continue to play a vital role, while also benefiting from the opportunity to work in the NHS.’


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