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NHS dependency on overseas staff soars as government ‘chooses short-sighted option over domestic investment’

NHS dependence on staff from overseas has soared to more than 20 per cent of the workforce, research revealed today, with the percentage of overseas doctors and nurses being even higher.

Nurses’ leaders have condemned the government for “choosing the short-sighted option of international recruitment over domestic investment” to counter staffing shortages.

Analysis by the Press Association news agency revealed record levels of overseas staff in the NHS — many from poorer countries with their own health staffing shortages.

The analysis revealed that of the 335,763 full-time nurses and health visitors in England in September last year, three in 10 — some 100,776 — were non-UK nationals.

The NHS is short of more than 40,000 nurses.

Royal College of Nursing general secretary and chief executive Pat Cullen said: “Internationally recruited staff are an important part of the nursing workforce, they must be treated well and not forced to pay increased visa costs while they care for patients.

“It is clear, however, that at a time of tens of thousands of vacant nursing posts and millions still on waiting lists, the government is choosing the short-sighted option of international recruitment over domestic investment.

“In doing so staff are often recruited from countries with shortages of their own.

“Ministers need to show they value nursing and provide the investment needed to deliver the workforce plan, starting with fair pay, or they risk continuing to miss their targets on cutting waiting times and leave patient care at risk.”

NHS Employers chief executive Danny Mortimer said that without overseas staff the NHS “could have very easily buckled under the pressures it has been put under.”

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