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Calls have been made for an investigation into nurses joining the UK nursing and midwifery register from countries on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) ‘red list’ where active recruitment should not be used.
More than 1,500 nurses have joined the UK nursing register in six months from the red list, figures show.
“I know the UK takes its ethical recruiting framework seriously, but the numbers we are seeing merit further investigation for people to be reassured”
Latest data released this week by the Nursing and Midwifery Council revealed that in the six months to September 2021, 1,334 nurses joined the register from Nigeria, and 336 joined from Ghana. Both countries are on the WHO’s Health Workforce Support and Safeguard List.
Chief executive of the International Council of Nurses, Howard Catton, said the figures “merit further investigation”.
“When we see a figure of 1,334 nurses joining the register in six months from Nigeria, this flashes red to me,” he told Nursing Times.
In February the government updated its code of practice for international recruitment, aligning itself with WHO advice on ethical international recruitment.
It widened the global market from which the UK can ethically recruit, because the WHO’s ‘red list’ of 47 countries where healthcare staff could not be actively recruited, replaced the previous UK list of 152 countries.
The government said at the time that the new code would help meet its target of delivering 50,000 nurses by 2024. The code says that health and social care worker recruitment from overseas should be “undertaken in an ethical, managed and mutually beneficial way and in line with advice from the WHO”.
Nurses from red list countries are still free to apply for UK jobs, but Mr Catton said the number of nurses moving from Nigeria “does look to be a high figure to be accounted for purely by individuals who are moving of their own accord”.
“We have seen a pick-up in global recruiting to countries in Europe and the US, and the pandemic is only likely to make that worse,” he added.
“I know the UK takes its ethical recruiting framework seriously, but the numbers we are seeing merit further investigation for people to be reassured.”
“What is important is that nurses that come to work in the UK from Nigeria are offered the help and support they need”
President of the Nigerian Nurses Charitable Association UK, Wendy Olayiwola, said she was unaware of active recruitment of Nigerian nurses to the UK, and that some nurses were struggling to find jobs in their home country.
“What is important is that nurses that come to work in the UK from Nigeria are offered the help and support they need,” she said.
The NMC figures published on Tuesday revealed that the nursing and midwifery register had grown by 13,011 to a total of 744,929 in the six months to September 2021 – a rise of 1.8%.
Much of the register’s increase in that time was down to recruitment from overseas, with 10,642 of 24,036 new joiners coming from countries outside the European Economic Area.
Professor Judith Ellis, nurse and chair of trustees at the Tropical Health and Education Trust (THET), said: “I recognise the UK health workforce need for international recruitment but the vital element for me as chair of THET is ensuring ‘ethical recruitment practices’.
“This is about recognising that international recruitment must not come at the expense of low and middle-income countries that can at any time, not just when we are all facing a pandemic, ill afford to lose health workers.”
She added: “Ethical international recruitment to the NHS definitely brings benefit to the NHS and to the individuals personally choosing to join the UK nursing workforce, but UK organisations should not be actively and aggressively recruiting from red list countries, unless there is a recognisable benefit to the countries that have trained and educated them.”