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NHS under fire over African nurses

The government has been accused of "asset-stripping" Africa after it emerged more than 5,000 nurses from the continent were issued UK work permits over a 15-month period.

Home Office figures released to Conservative MP Peter Lilley show the nurses and more than 500 African doctors were let in between January 2006 and March this year.

Since 2000, permits have been given to more than 53,000 African nurses - which Mr Lilley claims amounts to one in eight of the continent's total - and more than 4,000 African doctors.

Ministers unveiled a new code of practice for NHS trusts and recruitment agencies in 2004, which banned them from hiring healthcare staff from countries where they are scarce.

But the Royal College of Nursing warned earlier this year that only 140 of the 800 firms providing temporary staff for nursing homes and hospitals have signed up to the code.

Nurses and doctors hired in the private sector are not covered by the code, and it is believed that many then move into the NHS.

Mr Lilley said: "It is a scandal that this government continues to asset-strip Africa of the nurses and doctors it desperately needs.

"Having recently visited Africa and seen the crying need for trained medical staff, my principal concern is that our government's policy is making a tragic situation scandalously worse."

But a Department of Health spokesman said: "We are the only developed country to implement and review systematic policies, enshrined in a code of practice, that explicitly seek to prevent the targeting of developing countries in the international recruitment of healthcare professionals."

Peter Lilley

Department of Health

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Your comments: (Terms and conditions apply)

"Well I am an overseas nurse live and working in Britian I know the pains it takes for one to live home for abroad. The challanges are enormous. I  came to the UK to acquire more knowledge and skills. The equipment used here are only mentioned or read about in the hospitals abroad. Some equipment are seen in a few selected federal government hospitals. For me having worked in a federal  hospital known as the centre of execellency in cardio thoracic surgery, I count myself blessed but for others. I think it fairs for them to be recruited for a change. Thanks." - Name and address supplied

"The scandal is that if we follow this through we're led to the inexorable conclusion that recruitment from the developing world should be curtailed, because it leads to an unethical 'brain drain'. Yet this view is based on the questionable premise that the developing world will develop only if its best and brightest remain there to plug away at the problems that the lack of development presents. Does this really help the developing world - or does it merely guilt-trip people, putting an enormous burden of responsibility on those who want to migrate to gain a better quality of life elsewhere? There is much to be done to make the most of healthcare workers' expertise in the health arena. The broader problems of development, however, need to
be tackled in the political arena" - Brid Hehir

"The scandal is that our "home grown" nurses can't get jobs.  I have no problem with foreign nurses filling posts if we have posts available, but not at the detriment of our own nurses.  Two of my daughter's friends qualified in Sept 06 and now work in telesales as they were initially only given 6 months contracts and now their PCT's havnt any money so they are out of a job!" - Name and address supplied

"This is not a scandal, professionals should be able to develop their careers and experiences in the western world, so that they can return to their countries of origin and disseminate the skills acquired in developed contries, bearing in mind that we are in a global world now.This is just a farce for nothing, professionals should not be restricted to travel in this global world" - Name and address supplied

"There are currently very few jobs for nurses trained within the UK so why should nurses from abroad be taken when newly trained UK staff are having to work in supermarkets and restaurants because they cannot find work. Plus if you have ever worked with some of these nurses recruited from outside the UK they are often not trained to the same level as UK trained nurses and often provide poor care due to language barriers and inadequate training" - Name and address supplied

"It is a scandal when we are training so many nurses and they can't gain employment. I work as a nurse practitioner in a nurse-led surgery which covers only nursing homes. We have major problems with southern African nurses ranging from basic skills i.e. communication to cultural differences. If we as staff cannot understand these people how can we expect our elderly population who the majority have multiple pathologies with elements of dementias? Also why take the nurse away from their own countrie were they are needed, then expect our goverment to subsidise and help their countrysurely this is false economy and Britain is paying twice" - Name and address supplied