• Monday, November 28, 2022

HEADLINE STORY

New law to make it easier for overseas nurses and dentists to work in UK

The vacant posts in the NHS in England reached a record 132,139 earlier this year.

Representational image (iStock)

By: Pramod Thomas

The UK will soon introduce a new legislation to make it easier for overseas nurses and dentists to work in the country, The Guardian reported. The move is to increase overseas recruitment to tackle the NHS staffing crisis.

According to health secretary Steve Barclay, the new rules will make it easier for medical regulators to register those who have qualified abroad. Experts said that countries such as India, Sri Lanka, Kenya, the Philippines and Malaysia will be benefited by the rule change.

But critics urged to ramp up the supply of homegrown staff which is the only long term solution to the crisis. They said that lack of health workers will adversely affect other countries which are struggling with shortages.

Data shows that the number of unfilled posts in the NHS in England jumped by more than 25,000 earlier this year to a record 132,139. There are 46,828 vacancies for nurses alone, 11.8 per cent of the total. Brexit has significantly reduced the number of nurses coming to work in Britain from the EU.

A Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) memo shows that it will lay a statutory instrument in the House of Commons intended to enable the bodies that regulate nurses and dentists to approve the arrival of more foreign-trained staff.

The secondary legislation, which does not need a full parliamentary process to pass it, will be called the Dentists, Dental Care Professionals, Nurses, Nursing Associates and Midwives (International Registrations) Order 2022.

According to the DHSC, the existing unnecessarily cumbersome procedures restrict overseas staff coming to work in the NHS. The current legislative requirements make it difficult for the General Dental Council (GDC) and the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) to register international professionals.

“These legal changes will free up the regulators to carry out thousands more checks each year on dentists and nurses from overseas, giving the NHS much-needed capacity. The NHS has always called on overseas staff when in need,” the DHSC said.

The memo adds that the order would provide the GDC with greater flexibility to make changes to its Overseas Registration Exam (ORE) process and to explore other registration routes for international applicants, for example, recognition of programmes of education delivered outside the UK on a unilateral basis.

It will also help the NMC in relation to qualification comparability and the assessment of international applicants, and will give greater flexibility to change processes in future.

“We’re making sure we recruit ethically and without weakening standards, and these extra checks will help deliver that. Patients should be reassured that we will bring in extra staff able to deliver care to the same high standards as the staff we have already,” a source told The Guardian.

However, the overseas recruitment push has generated controversy about the ethics involved, such as the decision to recruit 100 nurses from Nepal over 15 months to work in hospitals in Hampshire.

The Royal College of Nursing has said that the recruitment must be ethical as the country is already over-reliant on international nursing staff.

“While international recruitment [of nurses] can plug the gap short-term, it should not distract from the need to train and retain more nurses in the UK. In order to attract more homegrown people to the profession nursing must be made an attractive career choice and that means improving pay, terms and conditions,” James Buchan, a senior fellow at the Health Foundation thinktank, was quoted as saying by the newspaper.

The British Dental Association said that the new push would not end the growing shortage of NHS dentists.

“Action here is long overdue, but will not address the scale of the crisis facing this service. NHS dentistry is haemorrhaging talent by the day because of the dysfunctional system it’s built on. Ministers need to do more than try to fill a leaky bucket. They need to actually fix it,” the BDA’s chair Eddie Crouch told The Guardian.

England is now short of 12,000 hospital doctors and more than 50,000 nurses and midwives, reports said.

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