The number of foreign nurses working in Britain has doubled in the last three years, with scores of NHS-funded hospitals recruiting workers from abroad. Figures suggest that one third of NHS trusts have looked overseas for nurses, with current plans to renew their overseas recruitment drive. Of the 105 NHS trusts that responded to a Freedom of Information request from the Nursing Times magazine, 40 declared that they had actively recruited nursing staff from abroad, with a further 41 planning to do so.
Many of these trusts targeted European countries, but several others looked thousands of miles overseas, turning to the Philippines, Australia, the USA and India to provide them with efficient, highly-qualified nursing staff to fill the current shortage. Hospitals targeted 29 countries from across the globe, with the greatest number of foreign nurses hailing from Portugal, Spain, Ireland and the Philippines. Recruitment drives also targeted Greece, Poland, Canada and Switzerland.
A Department of Health spokesperson claimed that this was not a novel phenomenon: "Recruiting from abroad is nothing new. Overseas nurses make a very valuable contribution to NHS patient care."
If you think that nursing in the UK could be the right move for you, read on to find out what you need to do.
Nurses Trained Outside the UK and EEA
Those wanting to work as a nurse in the UK must begin by registering with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). Only those who meet the council’s standards will be entered onto the register. Your eligibility will be assessed based on the training in your country compared to that required in the UK.
For nurses trained outside of the UK and EEA, the only way to become eligible for registration is by completing the Overseas Nurses Programme (ONP). Applicants are expected to meet the council’s minimum standards and to complete all or part of the ONP.
The ONP takes the form of a compulsory 20-day period of protected learning and, where appropriate, a period of supervised practice. Before being granted entry to the UK to complete the ONP, you must have a sponsor (your employer). Completion of the ONP will lead to employment as a registered nurse.
EEA nationals who have trained outside the EEA will not be eligible for automatic recognition of their qualification.
There is a further requirement for all nurses wishing to join the register to have passed an International English Language Testing System test. The academic version must be completed and entrees must score a minimum of 7.0 in listening and reading section 1, 7.0 in the writing and speaking section, and an overall average score of 7 out of 9.
Nurses Trained in the EEA
Nurses who undertook their training in the EEA will also be required to meet the standards of the NMC to be eligible for registration. The NMC will compare your training with that required in the UK, and where there are significant differences between the two, the NMC will detail these. Applicants will be offered the opportunity to make up for the disparity through either a period of adaptation or an aptitude test to demonstrate professional knowledge.
Unlike non-EEA qualified nurses, evidence of a nurse’s ability to communicate in English is not required, but some NHS organisations will require applicants to take and pass a written test to demonstrate their proficiency in English.
Nurses who trained in the EEA but are not EEA nationals may be required to undertake part or all of the ONP.
Finding NHS Job Vacancies
All jobs in the NHS will be advertised on the NHS Jobs website. Guidance is available from the Royal College of Nursing to steer applicants through the process of applying. This includes advice on good recruitment and employment practices, information on the regulation of nurses in the UK, support available for nurses and details of useful contacts and resources. Visit the website to see what’s on offer today.