UK Turns to Asia for Nurses to Cover 70,000 Staff Shortages

UK is facing serious health staff shortage estimated to balloon to a shortfall of 70,000 nurses in five years’ time in England alone, if current trends continue

BE2C2 Report – Hospitals are recruiting health workers from India and Philippines amid fall from EU- both countries in Asia have a reasonably well organized affirmative action, English oral communication training, and skills enhancement system in place, our study shows.

Behind the shortages is a combination of factors including uncertainty over Brexit affecting European nurses, demographic changes and a shortage in domestically trained staff. Nurses from outside of Europe have therefore becoming an important part of the workforce in the U.K.

Top 10 English speaking countries in Asia: 1. Philippines 2. India 3. Brunei 4. Singapore 5. Pakistan 6. Hong Kong 7. Malaysia 8. Bangladesh 9. Indonesia 10. East Timor

More importantly, a chaotic Brexit dragging out for nearly three years creating uncertainty over their status and improving economic conditions in southern Europe, are making nurses from the EU choose to leave the U.K. or not apply to relocate there.

Since 2016, when the British voted to leave the EU, there has been a steep decline in new entrants from the European Economic Area, or EEA, to the British nursing sector.

10,178 EEA nurses and midwives were added to the system in the year ending September 2016, but the figure plunged to 1,107 the following year, and to just 888 for the year ending September 2018. With more nurses and midwives from EU countries leaving, too, there is now a net outflow.

It is estimated that there are now over 30,000 vacancies for registered nurses in England alone. Asia now account for the largest number of foreign nurses working in England, according to Nikkei research.

“If we were not being able to be supported by the nurses from Asia, if we were just focusing within the U.K. or currently within Europe to recruit the numbers of nurses that are needed, we would struggle,” said Andrew Carter, associate chief nurse of the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust headquartered in based in Oxfordshire, England

Representatives of the trust have frequently traveled to Asia since late 2017, when they began an international recruitment campaign focusing outside of the European Union, and have offered jobs to hundreds of nurses in Asian countries- mostly from the Philippines and India, to work in its four hospitals.

These countries are two nursing strongholds in Asia and obvious choices, according to Carter and Foster.

The U.K. has agreements with the Philippines and India over ethical recruitment of nurses, so hospitals in Britain are recruiting from these countries outside UK and EEA.

There remains a vacancy of nearly 14% for registered nurses in UK, and the new recruits are expected to be key to improving that figure.

According to a recent joint report by the Health Foundation, the King’s Fund and the Nuffield Trust, the U.K. is facing a serious health staff shortage, which is estimated to balloon to a shortfall of 70,000 nurses in the National Health Service — the publicly funded health care system — in five years’ time in England alone if current trends continue.

The report said the NHS will need to recruit an average of 5,000 foreign nurses a year, alongside other policy responses, just to reach a 5% vacancy rate by 2023-24.

(BE2C2 Report is a data journalism initiative of Irshad Salim Associates, a New Jersey, USA, based consulting firm in association with BE2C2 in Pakistan