Published On: Tue, Dec 9th, 2014

Foreign Nurses Plug the Gaps Left by NHS Shortfalls

New figures from the British government showed how the NHS Foundation Trusts have spent almost £4.3bn over the past four years on agencies and temporary staff. The figures show a year-on-year rise of around 20% despite calls from the coalition government to cut spending. Similarly, in the last year of the Labour government, NHS foundation trusts spent £734m on temporary employment whereas the latest numbers from 2013-14 show that has almost doubled to £1.4bn.

Nursing Agencies

Other Spending

NHS Trusts also spent a further £1.2bn on contract and agency staff in 2013-2014, though similar information is not available for NHS trusts for 2010-11 to 2012-13 as spend on agency and contract staff was not separately identified from other “non permanent NHS staff.” This had led to speculation that the total cost could be closer to £10bn.

The reliance on agencies comes as a result of the number of nurse training places in England being reduced. Compared with May 2010, there were 7,000 fewer qualified nurses in August 2013, excluding healthcare visitors, midwives, school nurses.

Nursing Agencies

Many of the nursing agency employees filling the gaps were formerly based abroad, which has had left some wondering how changes to the current immigration policy would affect both the NHS and greater British public’s health as a whole. Statistics from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) show that 11% of all staff who either work for the NHS or in community healthcare services are not British. This extends to 14% for professionally qualified clinical staff and a further 26% for doctors.

Criticism that a dependency on foreign nationals has prevented British people getting a job in health services has been shut down, as the government’s current points system for non-EU migrants means workers would not be able to gain entry unless there was a vacant position that needed to be filled. The Royal College of Nurses instead blamed any problems on “truly incompetent planning” on the side of the ministers.

The NHS has targeted both English and non-English speaking countries, particularly those who once had ties to Britain through the Commonwealth. After Britain, India provided the highest number of professionally qualified staff, including both doctors and consultants. The Philippines also produced the third highest number of NHS staff overall, contributing highly in the fields of midwifery, nursing, and healthcare visiting staff. Ireland had the fourth highest number of staff in the NHS, followed by Poland, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Portugal, Pakistan, Spain, and Germany.