Surge in NHS Staff Applying to retire

The number of NHS staff applying for retirement has surged by 25% over the past four years, Nursing Standard can reveal. Workforce experts and nursing leaders have spoken out about their fears for the NHS after learning that almost 65,850 staff began the retirement process in 2015-16.

This number has jumped from just over 53,000 in 2012-13, and increased by 3,000 from the previous year. While the figures from NHS Pensions do not provide a breakdown of the professions applying, nursing is the largest element of the workforce. More than one third (37%) of nurses and midwives are aged over 50. The large number of nurses approaching retirement has long caused concern that an exodus of experienced staff will add further pressure to the overstretched workforce. Unison head of health Christina McAnea called for action to prevent much needed nurses leaving. ‘Nurses are choosing to take early retirement rather than run themselves into the ground trying to look after more patients with fewer resources,’ she told Nursing Standard. ‘But with staffi ng shortages at crisis levels, the NHS cannot risk losing any more experienced members of staff.

The government must act now. Ministers could end the pay cap and scrap plans to remove the student bursary.’ Research from the Institute for Employment Studies in July 2016 revealed the scale of the workforce challenge, with one in three nurses due to retire in the next ten years and a lack of UK-trained nurses to fi ll the gap. The report showed the NHS is heavily reliant on nurses from European Union countries such as Spain, Portugal and Ireland, but their future is uncertain in the wake of the Brexit vote

Care Work Jobs in Sheffield and South Yorkshire

care workWe are increasingly getting asked to provide healthcare staff to both the NHS and private and care homes around South Yorkshire. As such , we are currently recruiting qualified nurses and care workers around Yorkshire and the East Midlands.

Our agency is founded, and run, by an experiences healthcare staff. Having worked as agency nurses ourselves Pillar Nursing Placements was establish with set principles:

  • to assist with staffing needs
  • to provide the best possible care for patients
  • to ensure that the NHS is efficiently staffed and fulfilling patient demands
  • to ensure nurses and healthcare staff have full autonomy over their work pattern.

We supply experienced staff who provide the best possible care for the people and staff are readily available for block booking and emergency cover.

What kind of care workers are we hiring?

As with the nurses that we already work with we need seek fully trained staff and reliable staff with a strong commitment to provide an exceptional standard of care. The exact qualifications required will vary according to the environment that are placing you in and your own specialism. However as a minimum we are generally looking for care workers who have an NVQ 2 for Carers and/or NVQ 3 for Senior carers. We also prefer people who have at least 6 months experience working in the care homes.


What kind of care work is available?

We work with both NHS and private care homes in Sheffield, expanding across South Yorkshire into the East Midlands.  There are two main reasons why care homes ask us to provide them with staff. These are to cover individual shifts where they are short of staff and to place people for longer term, or permanent, contracts.

Where care homes are looking to cover individual shifts they often need people at short notice when one of their own staff is sick or otherwise unable to work. We help them out by providing qualified and committed care workers so that they can maintain safe staffing levels. Because we have a lot of care homes who need short term staff it is often possible for our care workers to pick and choose the shifts they want to work.  This means that the care workers that we place are able to fit work around their family and other commitments, picking up extra shifts as and when they want them. This flexibility, coupled with the top rates of pay we offer, make Pillar Nursing a great agency to work with for qualified car workers.

Find out more and apply for care work jobs

What will be the impact of nursing bursary cuts on nursing agencies?

University Nursing StudentsAs we have discussed before there is currently a shortage of nurses in the NHS. The NHS currently keeps going using a mix of agency staff to fill shifts and overseas nurses from both inside and outside the EU. At the root of the problem is the fact that the UK currently does not train, or retain, enough nurses to staff the NHS to safe levels.

To try and encourage more people to train as nurses student nurses have been exempt from paying university tuition fees. Instead there were a series of training bursaries available to pay fees and cover some living costs. The government has now confirmed that these bursaries will end by 2017 and any new student nurses will have to pay tuition fees and borrow money to fund their studies, with potential debts of £50,000 for a newly trained nurse. The government argues that this will mean more nurses will be trained.

Their logic for this is that because they limit the number of bursaries given out at the moment not everyone who wants to can get onto nursing courses. By getting rid of the bursaries and making nurses pay their own way the cap on the number of student nurses who can train will be lifted. They argue that this could mean an extra 10,000 training places being made available over the next few years. Currently around two thirds of potential nurses are turned away from training courses due to a lack of funding. The government claim that the new financial structure will stop this from happening.

Not everyone agrees with this assessment. Both the Royal College of Nursing and the Royal College of Midwives have condemned the plans and point to a joint study from UNISON and the NUS which predicts a fall in nursing graduates of around 2000 in the first year.


What does this mean for nursing agencies?

Nursing agencies have grown to play a very prominent part in NHS staffing in recent years. This has been due to a combination of factors including a lack of new trainee nurses, poor staff retention, wage freezes and simple demographics (a lot of senior nurses have been retiring and we have an aging population who need more care). With uncertainty around the status of EU nurses working in the NHS and continued immigration restraint limiting non-EU nurses there is going to be a squeeze on nursing levels for the foreseeable future. Unless we tens of thousands of new nurses each year for the next ten or twenty years there is still going to be a need to recruit from overseas, to use agency nurses and to seriously work on retention rates. Even if the government’s predictions of increased trainee nurses do happen there is likely to still be a shortfall in the numbers of nurses over the next 10 years.

Nursing agencies are therefore likely to continue being a vital part of the NHS staffing mix. With our ability to provide experienced nurses to fill shifts at very short notice nursing agencies are vital to securing safe staffing levels in NHS hospitals.


Pillar Nursing Placements are a nursing agency based in Sheffield. We are a nursing agency run by nurses for nurses, offering great quality care, and excellent rates of pay, across Yorkshire and the North of England.

Overseas Nurse Recruitment – EU versus Non-EU Nurses

Overseas Nursing Recruitment - flags

Currently the UK does not produce enough nurses to supply the needs of the NHS. It is therefore necessary for most NHS trusts to recruit at least some overseas nurses in order to meet safe staffing levels. As a nursing recruitment agency we help to recruit overseas nurses to work in the NHS in Yorkshire and the North of England more generally. We recruit overseas nurses from both inside and outside the EU.

While the recent Brexit vote has cast some doubt on the future of EU nurse recruitment many NHS trusts have already been balancing EU and non-EU nurse recruitment as nurses from the two markets fulfil slightly different needs. This has been highlighted by a recent study conducted by the Institute for Employment Studies which looked at the advantages and disadvantages of recruiting overseas nurses.


Availability of Nursing Recruits

One of the advantages of recruiting nurses from the EU is that it has been relatively quick. With no visa or work permit requirements there has been a lot less paperwork attached to recruiting from with the EU. However the number of nurses from within the EU looking to work abroad is relatively low. The Institute for Employment Studies study found that 68% of EU recruitment campaigns did not manage to find enough nurses. This is partly due to a general lack of supply of qualified nurses in the EU and to some European economies starting to do better and making working in the UK less attractive.

Where there are shortages of qualified nurses in the EU there is an oversupply of skilled nurses in the Filipino and Indian job markets. Qualified nurses from these countries are being actively encouraged to seek posts abroad. With visa and immigration rules from non-EU workers being stricter it does take longer to get these nurses to the UK but it can be worth it for long-term positions due to the numbers of available staff.


Language Skills

To work successfully in the NHS it is important for any overseas nursing recruits to have a good standard of spoken and written English. Since January 2016 it has been a requirement of the Nursing and Midwifery Council that EU nurses should pass an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam before being able to work in the UK. Many NHS trusts and NHS recruiters have reported that this is causing major issues in recruiting EU nurses. One of the attractions of working in the UK for many EU nurses had been the ability to improve their English. Being required to demonstrate their English skills before being allowed to work in the NHS therefore puts up a significant barrier to entry.

While the need for good standards of written and spoken English can be a barrier for EU nurses it is often seen as a bonus for nursing recruits from countries like India and the Philippines. As well as nurses from these countries typically being more experienced than their EU counterparts they also tend to have higher standards of written and spoken English on their entry to the UK. This makes it easier for them to gain equivalency status and to contribute to the NHS trusts they work in.


Retention of Overseas Nurses

EU nurses often come to the UK to gain more experience, or because of a lack of jobs in their home country. Because of the ease of movement within the EU these nurses tend to quickly move back to their home country once the job situation there improves, or once they have sufficient experience. This makes EU nurses a good fit for short-term roles, or two fill temporary gaps in staffing levels, but is not suitable for fixing long-term nursing recruitment issues.

Many NHS trusts have found that non-EU nurses tend to stay in their positions for longer. One NHS trust is reported as having recruited 200 Indian nurses between 2001 and 2004 all of whom are still working for them. This kind of retention is powered by a number of factors. the existence of local Asian communities to welcome new arrivals and help them to settle in has been identified as being important in some cases. Similarly visa requirements often mean that non-EU nurses have to stay with their employer for a set period of time in order to remain in the county. Many non-EU nurses also send a portion of their wages home to support family, giving them a greater incentive to stay in post.


Striking a Balance

There are advantages and disadvantages to recruiting nurses from both inside and outside the EU. While non-EU nurses tend to be more experienced and stay longer it also requires a lot more effort to get them to the UK in the first place. For more urgent, or shorter-term, nursing recruitment nurses from with the EU may be a better fit. Being able to select candidates from both markets allows a range of nursing jobs to be filled.


Pillar Nursing Placements recruit nurses from both inside and outside the EU to work in the NHS and private healthcare in Yorkshire and across the North of England. We help overseas nurses to complete the relevant professional and immigration paperwork so that they can work in the UK. If you are interested in getting nursing work in the UK please see our overseas nursing recruitment page.

The Triple Pronged Nursing Recruitment Crisis

2000px-NHS-LogoThe NHS and wider UK healthcare sectors are facing a lot of recruitment problems at the moment. At the moment at least 5% of nurses working in the NHS are from EU countries. Their future status and willingness has been thrown into doubt by the EU referendum which could pose problems for future recruitment. At the same time student nursing commissions have not been producing enough new qualified nurses to serve our rapidly aging population. Now, to make matters worse, a new UK government report has revealed that 1 in 3 nurses in the UK are due to retire in the next 10 years. So we have a triple pronged nursing recruitment crisis. Our experienced nurses are retiring, we aren’t training enough replacements and the EU migrants who had been patching the problem for us may not be here for much longer.

The report found that the cause of this triple pronged recruitment crisis is “a lack of long-term, strategic workforce planning, that offers oversight, coordination and alignment of the different dimensions of the nursing workforce (financial, education, employment and international recruitment).”

One of the ways that many NHS trusts have been patching these holes in recent years is through the use of nursing agencies to provide short term cover staff. However, this has come at great cost to the NHS with the bill for agency workers last year reaching £3.3 billion (up from £1.8 billion in less than 3 years).

There has clearly been some profiteering going on with the bigger premium recruitment agencies charging the NHS whatever they think they can get away with in order to supply staff. One of the NHS trusts who took part in the Institute for Employment Studies report on NHS staffing suggested that part of their solutions to this issue was to “starve out the premium agencies”.


What is the solution?

There is no single solution to the current NHS recruitment crisis. Instead there needs to be a multi-pronged approach which covers:

  • Improving the retention of the current nursing workforce
  • ‘Grow our own’ nursing workforce by increasing the numbers in nursing education
  • Attract more ‘returners’ back to the workforce (nurses who are qualified but not currently practising)
  • Recruit internationally
  • Drive down the costs for agencies


How Pillar Nursing can help

One of the reasons we started Pillar Nursing Placements was to help drive down the cost of agency workers within the NHS. As practicing burses ourselves we have witnessed the growth in the use of agency nurses over recent years. We have also witnessed the way in which many nursing agencies are only interested in earning a profit, not in providing quality nurses.

We deliberately take a smaller commission so that we can charge NHS trusts less and pass on more of what is left to the nurses we work with. We too want ‘starve out’ the premium agencies.

Pillar Nursing Placements can also help through our recruitment of international nursing staff. We recruit qualified nurses from both within the EU and from further afield. The nursing staff we supply are all vetted and have completed all of their immigration and equivalency paperwork by the time that we put them forward for nursing jobs. This means that NHS trusts can hire them straight away and don’t need to embark on their own expensive recruitment process.

Ultimately everyone who cares about the NHS and healthcare in the UK is going to have to work together to sort out the nursing recruitment crisis. While a lot of this work needs to be done by government and training bodies agencies like Pillar Nursing will also have a role to play. We will continue to supply short-term nurses to plug gaps and recruit nurses from overseas to join our workforce. And we will do it without overcharging the NHS for the privilege


To find out more about the services that Pillar Nursing Placements provide please give us a call on 07498 579226 or email us at

The Impact of Brexit on UK Nurse Recruitment

Brexit Blue European Union Eu Flag On Broken Wall And Half Great Britain FlagAs a nursing placement agency we supply qualified nurses and care workers to plug staff shortages in hospitals and care homes across the North of England. We recruit staff from the UK, the EU and from countries outside of the EU. Currently the NHS needs staff from all of these sources in order to safely staff hospitals and provide an acceptable level of care.

Currently around 130,000 people from the EU work in the UK healthcare sector, including about 10% of doctors, 5% of nurses and 5% of care workers. The recent EU Referendum vote for Brexit has caused a lot of worries about what will happen to these EU workers.

Obviously in the short term the UK is still part of the EU so workers are going to be able to continue recruiting healthcare workers from the EU for at least the next couple of years. However while we will be legally allowed to continue recruiting EU nurses and healthcare workers there are fears that less of them will want to come to the UK. Many EU workers in the NHS have reported that they see the Brexit vote as being an attack on them, and that they now feel unwelcome in the UK. We could, therefore start to see some of these EU NHS workers going home and it could also deter workers from the EU from coming to work here.

Another issue that has been raised as a result of Brexit is the falling value of the pound. One of the attractions for many EU workers of coming to the UK has been the relatively high wages, especially when converted back into Euros. With the exchange rate falling the UK is going to look like a less financially attractive as well as a less friendly place to work.


What does this mean for Nurse Recruitment?

As we said above there are no legal changes yet to the way EU workers can come to the UK to fill positions in the NHS and private care industry, and there are unlikely to be any changes for at least a couple of years. We can, therefore, expect to be able to continue relying on EU healthcare workers to fill both short-term and long-term positions in the UK.

While not a lot can be done in the short term about the exchange rate changes there is a lot that can be done to make sure EU workers feel welcome in the UK. A #LoveOurEUStaff campaign has already been launched on social media this week to send messages of support to EU NHS workers. Over the coming months the UK healthcare sectors as a whole will have to keep supporting EU workers and doing what we can to make them feel welcome. Those of us who work in the industry know what a struggle it would be to replace them and the damaging effect their loss would have on the quality of patient care.

Pillar Nursing Placements are a nursing agency based in Sheffield. We provide short-term agency, and long-term, placement of staff to hospitals, NHS trusts and care homes across the North of England.