Foreign Nurses – Their Future In The NHS

Currently, 12.5 per cent of nurses working in the NHS originally come from outside of the UK. This vital demographic has played a huge role in the provision of nursing care to patients across the UK for decades, but following the ‘Brexit’ vote, many are concerned that the future of foreign nurses in the NHS is at risk.

This article will take a look at why nurses from overseas are so important for the NHS, and what the future holds for foreign nurses in Britain.

Foreign nurses supporting the NHS

For many years, foreign nurses have been a key part of the fabric of the NHS. The majority of non-UK nationals who work as nurses are from the EU, with the other top five countries of origin being India (18,348 nurses), the Philippines (15,381), Nigeria (5,405), Zimbabwe (3,899) and Pakistan (3,375), according to the BBC. One in eight NHS England staff are non-British nationals, with recruits from 201 different countries working in the NHS.

However, despite the significant contribution that foreign nurses have made to the medical field in the UK, their place in the NHS is looking insecure post-EU referendum. Many research projects have found that fewer foreign nurses are applying to work in the UK, despite the significant deficit in healthcare professionals in the NHS.

For example, according to Parliamentary reports, EU nurses, as a percentage of those with a known nationality, have fallen from 7.4 per cent of the total to 7.1 per cent of nurses. Whereas, in 2015-16, 19 per cent of new NHS recruits were EU nationals, this fell to just 9.6 per cent by September 2017.

Taxes putting foreign nurses off applying to UK

But what exactly is putting foreign nurses off applying to work in the NHS? One leading factor is the financial barrier put on overseas applicants for NHS roles. Foreign nurses are expected to pay British health tax on top of their income taxes. Otherwise known as the immigration health surcharge (IHS), this fee means that migrant workers coming to the UK from outside the European Economic Area, and their dependents, must pay an annual fee of £200 each.

The requirements to apply to work in the NHS as a foreign nurse require thorough clinical examination and registration checks. However, many foreign nurses are also required to have large sums of money in their bank account for three months before they can apply to bring their families into the country. These financial burdens are simply too much for many when added to the normal costs of moving country.

Several figures within the healthcare industry have recognised that this is not a sustainable solution, particularly with the current nursing shortages. Between July and September 2017, there was a shortage of almost 88,000 NHS workers in England.

During the annual Royal College of Nursing conference, union members voted unanimously to demand that the government waive these work permit fees for foreign nurses and their dependents. The union claimed it is “morally questionable” for foreign nurses to pay this surcharge considering that they will already pay national insurance and income tax.

Recognising the need for foreign nurses

Not everyone sees the increase in foreign nurses as a solution to the workforce crisis. Government committees claim that the NHS relies too heavily on foreign nurses, saying an emphasis should be put on ‘home’ recruitment instead:

“Workforce strategy has been poor with too much reliance on overseas recruitment. The government should outline its strategy for ensuring that a greater proportion of the health and social care workforce comes from the domestic labour market and should report on progress against this target,”

Despite this, countless healthcare professionals are urging the government to reassure overseas-trained staff that they will be able to continue working in the country post-Brexit, and that there will be opportunities for foreign nurses – both from the EEA and elsewhere.

To find out more about opportunities for foreign nurses in the out-of-hours sector, contact us today on 03000 243 333. We can provide you with all the information and support you need. Working out of hours has many benefits, including a better work-life balance and flexible hours.