The NMC has said it has no plans to make use of powers granted by new legislation which could make the overseas recruitment of healthcare workers easier.
Originally reported after a Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) memo was leaked to The Guardian, the legislation gave regulatory healthcare bodies increased flexibility to explore different application processes in the future. However, the NMC says that these changes are very minor and will not effect recruitment for the foreseeable future.
Linda Everet, assistant director for registration and revalidation at the NMC, said that she welcomed ‘these minor amendments to our legislation.’
Mrs Everet added that while the legislation would ‘update the requirements for some of the documents we need from international applicants to our register, and clarify how we assess applications, the rest of our process and requirements remain the same’.
She continued: ‘While this amended legislation gives us greater flexibility for the future, we currently have no plans to move away from the test of competence as our primary route to the register for internationally trained professionals, who make a vital contribution to UK health and care services.’
This latest move from the DHSC forms part of current secretary of health and social care Steve Barclay’s push to increase international recruitment as worker shortages, especially in social care, threaten to affect patient care over the winter.
The new rules will could potentially make it easier for the NMC to to approve the applications of nurses who have qualified abroad, potentially boosting recruitment from countries like Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, Kenya, and the Philippines.
The leaked memo said that ‘excessive detail on the process that the NMC must follow to assess international applicants makes it difficult for the regulator to explore alternative registration routes to its test of competence’, according to the The Guardian.
The memo also stated that the legislation would remove ‘prescriptive detail on the process that the NMC must follow in relation to qualification comparability and the assessment of international applicants, providing the NMC with greater flexibility to change these processes in future’.
This comes as vacancies for nursing roles in the NHS hit historic highs of 46,828, 21% higher than the year before, making more workers in the NHS a welcome prospect. However, Mr Barclay’s new policy is not without its critics.
Pat Cullen, secretary general of the RCN, remained sceptical of any initiative to increase overseas recruitment, regardless of whether the NMC would actually make use of this new legislation.
Ms Cullen said: ‘Our internationally recruited nurses have always made an invaluable contribution to the health of our country, but the government cannot keep sticking a plaster on the deepening workforce crisis by recruiting from abroad. Especially when it’s from nations suffering their own workforce shortages.’
Previous analysis by the RCN found that overseas recruiting from ‘red list’ countries, countries from which active recruitment is not permitted, increased ten-fold since 2019.
‘It’s plain to see that an overreliance on overseas recruitment can be harmful to the countries we’re taking from,’ added Ms Cullen. ‘We will fight ministers if they believe the best way to respond to record unfilled nurse jobs, on their watch, is to raid other countries. Rules are being bent to cover up unethical moves.’