NHS Professionals’ EU nurses programme


According to The Times, the number of people aged over 65 is projected to rise by nearly half in the next 20 years to 16 million. With this ageing population, many problems, especially around health and social care, will become more and more difficult to manage. In particular there will continue to be increasing challenges around how the NHS ensures adequate capacity in hospitals and achieves safe staffing levels to meet growing demand for its services.

The World Health Organisation’s prediction that the number of health workers is going to become fewer and far between in years to come. The number of nurses in the UK is predicted to decline in the future by 28% (100,000) by 2022, as fewer people choose to enter the profession and a large proportion of nurses are currently approaching retirement. With this, many nurses who trained in the UK now choose to work abroad, especially in the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, where wages are considerably higher.

In order to help tackle some of the challenges already being experienced by NHS Trusts, NHS Professionals has developed a programme to recruit suitably qualified nurses from EU countries with a Nursing and Midwifery Council -compliant training scheme.

In the past, there has been a negative perception of overseas nurses, with an emphasis on poor language skills and training standards falling short of that which we have come to expect from nurses trained in the UK. Fortunately, this perception is shifting. This is largely due to the excellent language and cultural understanding nurses in the UK are required to have in order to work in the NHS.

The EU recruitment programme requires a strong partnership between NHS Professionals and its partner Trusts to ensure the continued availability of good quality candidates to address demand and support recruitment into substantive posts. This results in a mutually beneficial outcome for the Trust, NHS Professionals and the candidates. Nurses who want to come to work in the UK, and have been trained in an EU member state, must meet the standards of the NMC before they can be registered here. Comparisons will be drawn between the training they have already undertaken with that required to be a nurse in the UK. Any discrepancies will be addressed by additional training and tests covering all competencies. While the NMC do not test for English as a minimum standard, this is tested by individual Trusts, ensuring all staff are able to communicate effectively in a clinical environment.

NHS Professionals currently recruits all of its EU candidates from Portugal or the Republic of Ireland, where they will have completed a four year BSc Degree, which incorporates a final pre-registration, nine month clinical placement programme, similar to the UK post-registration preceptorship programme.

The EU recruitment scheme has been particularly successful in Portsmouth Hospital NHS Trust. The EU nurses have helped Portsmouth expand its workforce while ensuring all patients receive the best level of care possible. Staff from NHS Professionals and Portsmouth Trust visit the country they are recruiting from so they can meet the nurses first-hand. This allows them to assess the competency of the nurses, and it also allows the nurses to meet their potential employers, allowing them to make a more informed decision before moving to the UK.

Debbie Knight, Deputy Head of Nursing and Midwifery Education and Practice Development at Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, explains why many of the nurses recruited come from Portugal: “We looked at nurses across the whole of the EU, but Portugal has a four year training programme and is commensurate with the nursing training that we have here in the UK. They have a really good technical base to their training and their English is excellent. They have the most amazing care for the patients and have integrated really well with the teams. The teams love them and I’m always being asked when the Portuguese nurses are coming over from Portugal, which is really positive feedback for them.”

Hazel Hartnett, Matron, Wessex Renal and Transplant Service at Queen Alexandra Hospital describes her experience of working with the EU nurses: “Patients within my service have absolutely loved having the EU nurses on the ward. They are friendly, they are smiling and their care is second to none; it’s outstanding.”

This successful model of recruitment offers much hope for the future. It is important we have a large enough workforce to look after our ageing population, but it is equally important that this workforce is caring, compassionate and has the right qualifications for the job.

For more information about how the EU nurses programme is working for NHS Professionals clients and EU nurses, visit our YouTube account http://www.youtube.com/user/NHSPbank or view our EU nurses case study.

About the author

NHS Professionals administrator

NHS Professionals manages the temporary staffing needs of around 66 NHS Trusts across England. An integral part of the NHS, it aims to reduce Trusts’ spending on flexible workers without compromising quality, by providing greater transparency of demand and supplying bank staff at the best possible rate. Its bank of more than 40,000 flexible workers comprises general and specialist nurses, doctors, midwives, admin/clerical , allied health professionals, healthcare scientists, support services among other healthcare professionals.

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