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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 May, 2004, 15:53 GMT 16:53 UK
'Why I came to the UK to nurse'
By Michelle Roberts
BBC News Online health staff in Harrogate

Lena Masondo
Lena Masondo left her children behind
The UK has been relying heavily on overseas nurses to bolster staffing levels. Nearly half of all new registration nurses in the UK come from abroad.

The NHS has a policy to ban recruitment from developing countries, but many private healthcare sectors do not follow this code of ethics.

South Africa is losing 300 nurses each month as the move overseas to seek better payment and working conditions, according to Mrs Barbara Nicholls, Chief Executive for the US Commission on Graduates for Foreign Nursing.

The Royal College of Nursing is worried that overseas nurses will not want to continue to come to live and work in the UK.

I wanted to learn so that is why I came.
Lena Masondo
BBC Online News talks to two foreign nurses working in the UK to find out what attracted them to work here and whether they plan to stay.

Lena Masondo is a 47 year old nurse who, up until two years ago, was working in Johannesburg in South Africa.

She is currently working in elderly care at the Salford Royal Hospital, but first joined an agency recruiting for an independent nursing home.

Lena said she decided to come to live and work in the UK for the pay and educational opportunities.

Poor money

"I wanted to learn so that is why I came. I was attracted by the money promised. But the money is quite low - lower than I was promised.

"What I'm getting is better than what I was getting at home. It was far too low."

In South Africa, Lena earned 74,000 Rand per year, which equates to about 5,900 per year.

In the UK she is earning about 18,000 per year as an E-Grade nurse.

Lena has a husband and three children, the youngest being three years old, who she has had to leave behind.

She said she had no real choice because she wanted to provide the best she could for her family.

"I decided with my husband that I should come over. It's not nice leaving your family, leaving your country. I didn't do it deliberately, I was pushed."

Lena is still sending money back to her family. She plans to return to her home town in the future.

But she said: "If I had a chance to see my family more regularly I would stay longer. I want to stay."

Ghana to the UK

Matthew Tay, 38, came to the UK from Ghana five years ago. In Ghana he was on a sabbatical working both as a union representative and on behalf of a minister.

We have a wealth of experience but then we are all stuck at the bottom.
Matthew Tay
He decided to trade his higher position for the promise of better pay in the UK.

He was recruited by an agency for the NHS and is now working for the Barnet, Enfield and Haringey Mental Health Trust as a mental health nurse.

Matthew says, in reality, the monetary gains are not as great as he had hoped.

"Initially it felt like a big difference but it does change because you still have to pay your rent and run your car and pay your insurance and so it gets eroded.

"I have serious plans to go back. But the difference is that you come and live here and you get used to a different way of living and so it makes it a bit more difficult when you haven't got the necessary facilities in place back home."

Matthew has a wife and two children who still live in Ghana. "I've left them and I'm struggling to bring them here. My youngest son is now eight. He was three when I left him."

Difficult to readjust

Matthew Tay
Matthew Tay says going back would be a problem
Most nurses who return to Ghana after working in the UK find it difficult to fit back into the system, he said.

"There are a variety of issues that make it difficult to go back - political, the use of the law, patients rights, nurses rights.

"I may go back but the question is am I going back to nursing because of all of those issues."

Those who decide to stay in the UK do not necessarily get equitably rewarded.

"I've been a nurse for 13 years. I'm well qualified. But then you come over [here] all of this is not recognised.

"We have a wealth of experience but then we are all stuck at the bottom and one out of 10 might move up but the majority stay at the bottom."

"I work in acute psychiatric care. For 80% of the time I was in charge of the ward and yet I'm still an E-grade."

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