NHS in England ‘heavily reliant’ on doctors overseas amid staffing ‘crisis’

·3-min read
There have been fresh calls for the Government to tackle the NHS staffing crisis  (PA Wire)
There have been fresh calls for the Government to tackle the NHS staffing crisis (PA Wire)

The NHS in England is relying ever-more on recruits from abroad, according to an analysis, amid concerns about staffing levels.

Figures from NHS Digital show the share of healthcare staff recruited from overseas almost doubled between 2014 and 2021 to 34%, according to an analysis by the BBC.

The British Medical Association (BMA) said the NHS had become increasingly dependent on international recruitment because of chronic staff shortages “underpinned by lack of effective workforce planning by Government”.

The broadcaster found the share of UK doctors joining the health service had fallen from 69% in 2015 to 58% last year while the share of new UK nurses fell from 74% to 61% in the same period.

Meanwhile, the share of doctors recruited from outside the UK and the EU rose from 18% to 34% and the share of nurses rose from 7% to 34%.

The BMA’s Dr Kitty Mohan said: “The NHS has grown heavily reliant on doctors from overseas who have and continue to make an enormous contribution to our health service.

“This was evidenced during the pandemic as international doctors were front and centre of the battle on the NHS frontline – with a disproportionate number sadly losing their lives to the virus.

“The simple fact is that we do not have enough doctors, nurses and other healthcare staff to meet the growing and increasingly complex healthcare needs of our population.

“Doctors are cutting their hours or making plans to leave the health service altogether for a range of reasons – including years of pay erosion, punitive pension taxation rules, punishing workloads, stress and exhaustion, restrictive immigration rules, and sadly, verbal and physical abuse.”

She called upon the Government to “publish a long-term workforce strategy as soon as possible”.

Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, also called for “urgent action" from the Government to tackle “chronic staff shortages in the longer term".

Mr Mortimer added that the Government needed to deliver a “dose of political honesty” about the scale of the challenges in the NHS.

Meanwhile, Patricia Marquis, Royal College of Nursing director for England, said the number of unfilled nursing positions in the NHS is “unsustainable”.

She added that while internationally recruited nurses are invaluable to the NHS “ministers must do more to boost the domestic recruitment of nursing staff".

“One of the simplest ways to retain staff is to pay them fairly," she said.

Last month, a cross-party Commons Committee found services in England face “the greatest workforce crisis in their history” and claimed the Government has no credible strategy to improve the situation.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “There are over 4,300 more doctors and 10,200 more nurses working in the NHS compared to last year, and we are on track to deliver 50,000 more nurses by 2024

“We’re boosting our homegrown recruitment – including by opening five new medical schools and providing a 25% increase in funding for medical school places over three years to 2020, with the first graduates from this cohort entering foundation training this year.

“Internationally trained staff have been part of the NHS ever since its inception and they continue to play a vital role in helping us tackle the Covid backlogs. We have recently signed bilateral agreements with countries like India, Philippines, Kenya, Malaysia and Sri Lanka to support the recruitment and training of nurses.”

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