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NHS looks to Spain and to refugees to solve recruitment problems

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The NHS is looking to Spain and to refugees in this country to try and address the shortage of nurses in the UK.

An agreement has been signed with the Spanish Health Secretary to recruit up to 5,000 Spanish nurses. Adverts are being placed in papers and journals in Spain to attract fully qualified to SRN equivilent nurses with good language skills to come and work in the UK. Initially 75 nurses will arrive to take up positions in the North-West early next year, having undergone an intensive course in the technical language used in hospitals. They will also receive individual supervision from NHS nurses. There are also moves to invite other healthcare staff to work here to address shortages in other areas.

Health Secretary Alan Milburn has announced this as a temporary ‘stop gap’ while nurses currently training come through the system. The government has set a targaet of 20,000 more nurses in the NHS by 2004. Mr Milburn said the launch of a national recruitment campaign for nurses last year had boosted the numbers of nursing staff by 5,000, with 2,269 preparing to join them.

The Department of Health will publish guidance for all NHS
employers on international nursing recruitment on 26th November. It states that internatonal recruitment should only be considered when it will have no adverse affects on the home healthcare systems, and will have a clear benefit to the NHS. The NHS will be appointing an international recruitment specialist in each region to ensure that the process is ‘an efficient and ethical one’.

The ethics of a second initiative to boost staff numbers appear a little more dubious. The government has launched a £500,000 scheme to attract qualified health workers who have refugee status in this country to positions as doctors, dentists. A database will be set up to include all refugee doctors and dentists listing their particular specialisms. The scheme will also include training and shadowing local NHS doctors to ensure the incoming doctors practice to the same standards.

The government estimates that there are between 500 and 2,000 medically qualified refugees in the UK who could begin working as NHS doctors in less than the six years it takes to train one from scratch. Health Minister John Denham said: “It makes fundamental sense for us to enable refugees with medical skills to work in the NHS. We are, of course, training thousands more doctors, nurses and other health professionals. But it takes at least six years to train a doctor. During that time there may be as many as 2000 refugees in this country who have already qualified as doctors abroad. It makes sense in moral, health and economic terms to use their skills to the fullest possible extent.”

HR Zone says: Although both schemes make good sense on paper, it’s still a major concern that the skills shortage in the NHS shows no sign of abating. Similar plans are already in place – nurses have been coming over from Trinidad for some time. As Tony Green from the Employment National Training Organisation points out, “we’re in a free market economy – you can’t force people to do it.” There’s a real need to get to the core reasons why the health service is proving an unattractive career option for so many and to address those issues directly.

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