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.
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.