The NHS plans to recruit 5,000 overseas nurses a year over the next half decade to help stem chronic staffing shortfalls, leaked papers reveal.
The papers, leaked to The Times, say thousands of overseas nurses will be needed in the next few years to prop up struggling healthcare services.
A lack of planning for the increase in demand caused by an ageing population has resulted in overworked nurses leaving the profession in droves, the NHS Improvement report admits.
However the recruitment drive – which is likely to target India, the Philippines, Ireland and Australia – is still not enough to fill yawning gaps in the NHS’ workforce, the report states.
The drive would see 5,000 nurses from overseas come to work in the NHS each year for the next five years, more than double the amount recruited this year – but still not enough to make a significant impact on growing staff shortages.
Currently more than 100,000 NHS roles are unfilled, with staff shortages expected to increase over the coming years.
Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said the plans will do little to stem the chronic shortfall of nurses in the NHS.
He said, “Years of underinvestment in services, frozen pay and a cynical expectation that already overstretched staff will pick up the slack have led to this situation.
“Additionally, the scrapping of the NHS student bursary means that prospective nurses are being put off by the thought of shouldering massive debts for very little financial return.
“Rather than tackling the underlying issues, the Tories are simply looking for quick fix by trying to entice nurses from abroad with barely a thought for the implications that will have on struggling healthcare systems elsewhere.”
While making clear that overseas healthcare staff “always have and always will play an integral part in the NHS”, Jarrett-Thorpe said overseas recruitment cannot solve the health service’s staffing crisis.
He said, “Staff shortages at their current levels can only be solved by supporting serving nurses with adequate resources and funds and by reestablishing student bursaries so that there’s enough nurses in the future.”
Responding to the leak, NHS Improvement chair Baroness Dido Harding said the “interim plan is still being written and will be published shortly”.