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£566,000 overseas recruitment campaign yields just 12 nurses

A campaign in Northern Ireland to recruit more nurses from overseas in order to help fill around 1,500 vacancies has returned a total of 12 new nurses, despite costing £566,000.

Funded by the Department of Health, 37 health trust staff from the country visited Italy, Greece, Romania, the Philippines and India between May 2016 and June 2017, in a bid to recruit more nurses to fill the shortfall.

A Freedom of Information request by The Irish News found that 66 EU and non-EU nurses arrived in Northern Ireland as a result, but that only 12 of them were given full registration by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), as the others cannot yet legally work as nurses until they meet the requirements set by the regulator.

Many were unable to pass the English Language Testing System, with only 23 of the 66 passing the test. The 54 who have yet to satisfy those requirements are working as healthcare assistants until that process is complete.

The £566,000 bill included four-star hotels for the staff flown over, flights, food and drink.

But despite the expense and relative low yield of new nurses, the overseas campaign will continue, with a DH spokeswoman claiming that ‘international recruitment will continue in 2017/18. The position for 2018/19 will be reassessed later this year’.

Janice Smyth, director of the Royal College of Nursing in Northern Ireland, slammed the campaign as a failure.

She said: ‘This new international recruitment exercise has been an absolute failure...it seems a considerable resource to invest for a very low return. Nurses in Northern Ireland are now the lowest paid in the UK and are paid considerably less than their colleagues in the Republic. Northern Ireland will absolutely struggle to attract nurses.

‘When you divide the £566,000 spent by 12 – and that doesn't include the health trust employees’ salaries – that is as expensive as it is to train a nurse in Northern Ireland.’