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UK relaxes restrictions on hiring international nurses



The UK can now hire international health and social care staff including nurses from over a hundred countries where it had previously banned active recruitment.

The list of countries from which it cannot recruit healthcare staff was shortened from 152 to 47, as part of an update to the code of practice last Thursday. This brings restrictions in line with the World Health Organization’s own banned list.  

Recruitment campaigns can now be run in countries including Namibia, Laos and Iran, which the Government says will help it meet its manifesto promise for 50,000 more nurses by 2024.

But the RCN has warned the Government that it ‘cannot resort to unfair recruitment practices to meet this political goal’ and must conduct ‘transparent, clear and fair’ international recruitment.

RCN chief executive Dame Donna Kinnair said: ‘Internationally trained nursing staff play an integral role in our health and care services, but overseas recruitment must complement the domestic workforce and not be a substitute for adequate training, education and investment.’

UK recruiters are not permitted to actively recruit – meaning conduct a recruitment campaign – from listed countries unless both governments agree to managed recruitment.

The Government said it will treat international recruits including nurses fairly and will also support countries with the most pressing workforce challenges.

The latest Nursing and Midwifery Council data shows the number of professionals from the European Economic Area (EEA) on the register fell from 38,992 in March 2016 to 30,895 in September 2020.

Meanwhile, the number of nurses and midwives from outside the EEA jumped from 68,055 in September 2016 to 85,873 in September 2020.

Minister for care Helen Whately said: ‘We will work with countries all over the world to promote the best standards of ethical recruitment of health and social care staff and I look forward to welcoming more incredible talent to the UK.’

The Government aims to enlist 12,500 nurses from abroad as part of its commitment to delivering 50,000 more nurses. The figure also includes 18,500 existing nurses who will be retained or persuaded to return, 14,000 more undergraduate and postgraduate nurses, and 50,000 apprentices.