Record numbers of international nurses on UK register – Nursing Times

‘This is a situation that cannot go on indefinitely’
30 November, 2022 By
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The number of internationally trained nursing staff in the UK is increasing rapidly, with nurses coming from abroad accounting for nearly half those who registered for the first time in the last six months, latest figures from the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) show.
Overall, the number of nursing professionals on the register went up by more than 13,000 between April and September 2022 to a record 771,445. This growth in registered nurses, midwives and nursing associates was driven largely by nurses trained outside the UK, the NMC mid-year update revealed.
“The government is raiding the rest of the world to cover up for huge losses at home”
Pat Cullen
A total of 11,496 internationally trained nursing staff joined the register for the first time during the period analysed. This was only slightly short of the 12,102 joiners who trained in the UK, and was a 5% increase on the number of international nursing staff who joined in the same period in 2021.
The figures reflect a trend towards reliance on internationally trained nurses to fill gaps in the NHS nursing workforce.
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Just under 24,000 internationally trained nurses joined the UK register for the first time in the 12 months to September 2022. This was an increase of more than 30% on the number that joined the previous year, and nearly five times as many as the 5,083 that joined the register in the 12 months to September 2018.
Meanwhile, just over 24,100 UK-trained nurses joined the register for the first time in the 12 months to September 2022, which was 4% higher than in 2021, and 9% higher than in the year to September 2018.
India and the Philippines were the countries that trained most of the international nursing staff who joined in the last six months, accounting for 7,241. However, Ghana and Nigeria have remained in the top 10 countries providing nursing staff, even though they are on the WHO red list of countries where recruitment should not be carried out.

Pat Cullen
Royal College of Nursing general secretary and chief executive Pat Cullen said that these figures raised serious ethical questions.
“The government is raiding the rest of the world to cover up for huge losses at home and these figures leave ministers with serious ethical questions to answer,” she said.
“We have repeatedly called on the UK government to invest in nursing, including fair pay, as that is the one lever at their disposal to immediately boost recruitment and retention.
“Instead, they are recruiting nurses from countries that can ill afford to spare them themselves, such as Nigeria and Ghana,” she said.
“Internationally trained colleagues are hugely valued and experienced. But in the context of a global nursing workforce crisis the government has got its policy completely back to front,” Ms Cullen said.
Chief executive of NHS Employers, Danny Mortimer, said that the growing numbers of staff recruited from overseas in recent years spoke to a lack of investment in education and training within the UK.
“With more than 40,000 nurses having already left the NHS and against a backdrop of 132,000 staff vacancies, health leaders continue to urge the government to set out the detail of the workforce strategy announced in the chancellor’s autumn statement, which will build on current government interventions to boost international nursing recruitment and in turn to ensure a skilled and diverse NHS workforce,” Mr Mortimer said.
Unison head of health Sara Gorton agreed that pay and staffing were at the heart of the problems affecting the NHS.
“Overseas workers will always be valued in the NHS. But relying on international recruitment is no substitute for the urgent retention plan needed for UK health professionals,” she said.
“The government must put NHS pay right to stop staff going and improve care for patients,” Ms Gorton added.
The NMC figures also showed a greater ethnic diversity among the nursing workforce in the UK than at any previous time, with nursing professionals from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds now accounting for more than a quarter of the nursing workforce.
According to the mid-year update, 26% of currently registered nurses, midwives and nursing associates in the UK were from a Black, Asian or minority ethnic background, which was 7% more than in 2018.
“Overseas workers will always be valued in the NHS”
Sara Gorton
This was partly accounted for by the increase in international nursing recruitment, but also reflected a more ethnically diverse UK-trained workforce. People from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds made up nearly 24% of UK-trained nursing professionals joining the register for the first time between April and September this year.
NMC chief executive and registrar Andrea Sutcliffe said that it was “vital” that the increasingly diverse nursing and midwifery workforce be adequately supported.
In a report published earlier this year, the NMC found that some nurses had been made to feel like an “outsider” because of protected characteristics, such as their ethnicity or gender, leading to them being disproportionately referred to the regulator.
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Ms Sutcliffe warned that steps should be taken by employers to ensure that the increasingly ethnically diverse nursing workforce did not continue to experience this kind of discrimination.

Andrea Sutcliffe
“As we face a very busy and challenging winter this may be a particularly anxious time for almost 24,000 professionals who have joined the register since April, nearly half of whom have come from outside the UK,” she said.
“That’s why it’s vital for the increasingly diverse professionals joining the nursing and midwifery workforce to be welcomed into an inclusive culture that supports them to thrive,” she said.
Mr Mortimer responded that employers would take this responsibility seriously.
He said: “The NHS has historically benefitted from hugely talented health care staff coming to work in the health service from around the world and will continue to do so.  Employers take seriously their obligation to support and induct internationally educated nurses and other colleagues joining our teams, and there is an ever growing repository of excellent practice in that regard.”
Responding to the report, health and social care secretary Steve Barclay celebrated the fact there were a “record” number of nurses, midwives and nursing associates on the NMC register.
“Alongside growing the workforce at home, we are also recruiting talented health workers from abroad – as part of our plans to build a stronger, healthier NHS for the long-term and give people the security of knowing that it will be there for them when they need it,” he added.
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