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Figures indicate that 20 percent of NHS jobs in England are held by foreign nationals, with 30 percent of nurses and 36 percent of doctors being foreign nationals. Experts are warning that overreliance on international workers is unsustainable and cannot continue.
Analysis by the PA news agency showed that out of the 1,282,623 full-time equivalent hospital and community health service staff in England in September 2023, 20.4 percent are foreign nationals. This is the highest proportion since September 2009 when data collection began and is a significant increase from previous years.
In terms of roles, the proportion of nurses and health visitors who are non-UK nationals has increased to 30%, while for doctors it is 36.3%. The most common non-UK nationality is Indian, with the next most common nationalities being Pakistani, Egyptian, and Nigerian for doctors, and Filipino, Nigerian, and Irish for nurses and health visitors.
This growing reliance on foreign workers in the NHS has raised concerns among experts. Danny Mortimer, the chief executive of NHS Employers, stated that there is no room for complacency and emphasized the importance of focusing on retention as well as attracting new staff into the NHS. Think tanks and health charities are also urging for a resolution to this issue.
In response, the Department of Health and Social Care announced a 15-year plan to boost the domestic workforce and reduce reliance on international staff, including expanding medical training domestically. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak unveiled plans to employ an additional 300,000 health workers, with significant government investment. The government hopes that through these initiatives, the NHS will be less reliant on recruiting from overseas for the next five years.
However, the government’s ethical recruitment code prohibits the active recruitment of medical professionals from certain low-income countries. Employers have been cautioned to be mindful of this code, as the influx of joiners from these countries could undermine their health systems.
These measures reflect the growing concern over the NHS’s increasing dependence on foreign workers and the need to develop sustainable solutions.