Thousands of foreign nurses leave Britain every year to work abroad

Nearly 9,000 foreign nurses leave Britain to work abroad every year, amid a sudden rise in the number of nurses leaving the already understaffed NHS for better-paid jobs elsewhere.

The increase in the number of nurses originally from outside the EU taking up new posts abroad has raised concerns that Britain is increasingly becoming a ‘stopping point’ in their careers.

The number of UK registered nurses moving to other countries has doubled in just one year between 2021-22 and 2022-23 to a record 12,400 and has quadrupled since before the coronavirus pandemic.

Seven in 10 of those who left last year – 8,680 – qualified as nurses somewhere other than the UK or EU, often in India or the Philippines. Many had worked in Britain for up to three years, according to research by the Health Foundation.

The vast majority of those who quit go to the US, New Zealand or Australia, where nurses are paid much more than in Britain – sometimes almost double.

Experts have expressed alarm at the findings, saying the UK’s NHS, which is already struggling with around 40,000 nurse vacancies and is hugely dependent on those coming from abroad, is increasingly losing out in the global recruitment race .

“It feels like the NHS is slipping down the rankings as the destination of choice for foreign nurses,” said Dame Anne Marie Rafferty, professor of nursing studies at King’s College London.

“ Worryingly, it feels as if Britain is not seen as a high-income country, but as a middle-income country when it comes to wages, and as a way station where nurses from abroad can acclimatise to Western healthcare systems in the search for better wages and conditions. ”

Last year, 12,400 nurses working in Britain applied for a certificate of current professional status (CCPS), which they need to work in another country, the Health Foundation report found.

The biggest increase among that group was among foreign-trained nurses who had worked in Britain for just three years or less. This pronounced trend in short stays suggests that for many recruits from abroad, “the UK could provide a springboard before moving to other destinations,” the think tank said.

It was pointed out that OECD data showed that a nurse in Britain earned an average of $46,000 a year (£36,500) – “significantly less than in Australia ($71,000 or £56,350), New Zealand ($57,000 or £45,000) and the US ($84,900 or £67,000)”.

Applications for CCPS to work in America increased tenfold between 2021-22 and 2022-23 after a change in visa policy allowed many more foreign nurses to move there.

The Royal College of Nursing said the growing exodus of foreign-trained nurses was due to the significant erosion in salaries the nursing profession has suffered since 2010.

Prof. Pat Cullen, CEO and general secretary of the RCN, said: “It is deeply concerning to see more and more foreign nurses choosing to leave Britain. Recruitment of domestic nurses is collapsing and services are gripped by a labor shortage.

“With patients’ needs still unmet, the prospect of losing more of our international colleagues is not something to contemplate.

“The reality is that continued attacks on wages and poor working conditions are leaving the UK’s healthcare services uncompetitive on the global stage. International nurses, like all nurses, have every right to choose to work in countries that better value their skills and expertise. It is no joke that nurses’ salaries in Britain are at the lowest of all 35 OECD countries.”

Co-author of the report Elaine Kelly, the assistant director of the Health Foundation’s research centre, said that, with an acute shortage of nurses and so many foreign nurses leaving Britain, “if the NHS wants to avoid a stepping stone to careers elsewhere, it must become a more attractive workplace for all nurses, regardless of where they trained.”

She said the brain drain was particularly worrying because it cost the NHS around £10,000 to replace each foreign recruit who then moved elsewhere.

The Department of Health and Social Care said it did not recognize the Health Foundation figures. The latest data from the Nursing and Midwifery Council shows that fewer nurses – those trained in Britain and abroad – are leaving the NHS, a spokesperson said.

“We greatly appreciate the care of our wonderful nurses. That is why we have reached a fair and reasonable deal with the unions, which provides for a 5% pay increase, two additional one-off bonuses worth 6% of wages and a range of non-paid bonuses. -payment measures to support NHS workers (in England).

“We have also delivered on our commitment to recruit a further 50,000 NHS nurses six months early, and the first-ever long-term workforce plan – backed by more than £2.4 billion in government funding – will deliver the largest training expansion in the history of the NHS, and ensuring that up to 130,000 fewer staff, including nurses, will leave the NHS over the next fifteen years.”