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‘Alarming rise’ in nurses actively planning to leave UK

‘Alarming rise’ in nurses actively planning to leave UK

New data has pointed to ‘an alarming and sustained rise’ in nurses actively planning to leave the UK to practise overseas – prompting a fresh call for a recruitment and retention payment to boost salaries within the profession.

Following a submission of a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has discovered a jump in the number of nurses contacting the regulator for certificates of current professional status (CCPS), which nursing staff must submit before practising overseas.

The FOI request revealed that in 2021/22, around 5,000 certificates were issued, but applications more than doubled in 2022/23 to over 11,700.

Furthermore, between April and September 2023, the number of CCPS issued neared the total for the previous 12 months, suggesting another big rise for 2023/24. In total, the last five and a half years have seen over 35,000 CCPS issued.

According to Professor Pat Cullen, RCN general secretary and chief executive, low pay and poor working conditions are driving workforce shortages in the UK.

‘With the prospect of better pay and working conditions abroad, it should be little wonder why nurses are opting to use their skills elsewhere,’ she said.

The data uncovered by the RCN also suggests that thousands of internationally educated nurses have left or are considering leaving the UK.

Since 2018, more than 14,000 UK nursing staff trained in India requested CCPS, along with around 7,000 trained in the Philippines and 3,000 trained in Nigeria.

The RCN said that applications to practise in India, the Philippines and Nigeria are ‘very low’, indicating that ‘nurses are not simply returning to their country of origin’.

According to the RCN, the data highlights that ‘the government’s overreliance on recruiting internationally educated nursing staff is not a long-term solution, with many eventually leaving the UK’.

And it also shows an ‘alarming and sustained rise’ in the number of nurses actively looking to practise elsewhere.

The union has reissued its call to the government to boost nursing salaries with a recruitment and retention payment, alongside an above-inflation pay award, to recognise the ‘chronic workforce shortages’ across the whole of the UK.

Professor Cullen said: ‘Every day that the penny doesn’t drop is another when more nurses choose to leave.

‘Solutions to the nursing workforce crisis are often described as being overly complex. But the reality is that those working in health and care services want to be rewarded fairly and to deliver the level of care they were trained to.’

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘We delivered on our commitment to recruit an additional 50,000 NHS nurses six months early, helping to tackle waiting lists and improve access for patients.

‘We have also published the first ever Long-Term Workforce Plan – backed by over £2.4bn government funding – to provide the biggest training expansion in NHS history and hundreds of thousands more staff over the next 15 years. The plan also commits to improving staff retention by to ensure that up to 130,000 fewer staff, including nurses, will leave the NHS over the next 15 years.’

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