Nurses slam recruitment policies

24 May 01
The Royal College of Nursing's annual conference has narrowly backed a motion condemning NHS trusts and recruitment agencies that make up staffing shortfalls by hiring nurses from abroad.

25 May 2001

At the RCN's conference in Harrogate this week, the profession was split over nurses' right to work where they wished and the ethics of removing vital nursing resources from developing countries. It is believed that around 30,000 overseas nurses are working in the NHS.

Under pressure to meet waiting list targets, many trusts have ignored the NHS Executive's guidance on international recruitment, which insists staffing drives should only be targeted at countries with surpluses of nurses.

Despite an agreement between the South African government and the Department of Health limiting appointments from that country, South Africa was the biggest source of overseas nurses in 1999/2000.

International development Secretary Clare Short told the conference that overseas recruitment was likely to continue for some years to come and called on recruitment agencies to abide by 'ethical principles'.

Many speakers said recruiting from abroad was missing the point. Torbay nurse Mike Evans said that the NHS must look at ways of retaining its existing staff.

This was brought into sharp focus by an RCN survey published this week which showed 25% of nurses want to leave the profession in the next decade, even though they will still be below retirement age. The biggest reason for the exodus was the difficulty of combining home and work life, though this was closely followed by dissatisfaction with pay.

The survey found disillusionment with the future of the NHS. Although around three-quarters agreed that the NHS should remain free, almost a quarter believed that by 2010 it was likely or very likely that patients would have to pay for at least some routine procedures such as hip replacement operations.

Christine Hancock, RCN general secretary, said a free NHS was the only way to deliver the best possible patient care for all. 'It's vital that all the major political parties make a renewed commitment to modernising and investing in the health service – not just over the next term of office but for years to come,' she added.


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