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Monday, 22 April, 2002, 12:29 GMT 13:29 UK
Concern over foreign nurse 'exploitation'
Nurse
The NHS is becoming reliant on foreign nurses
Foreign nurses are being forced to pay huge fees for the opportunity to work in the UK, research has found.

The Royal College of Nursing says the practice must be outlawed, and that all nurses must be treated in the same way.


At a time when we are heavily reliant on internationally recruited nurses it is important that their skills are valued

Dr Beverley Malone
An RCN survey found that the majority of overseas nurses who are employed by the NHS receive the same pay and working conditions as their British colleagues - but those who go into the private sector can face unequal treatment.

One in three overseas nurses are recruited by independent recruitment agencies.

In some cases these agencies are charging the recruits a signing on fee of up to 2,000.

Once they have found a job, the nurses then sometimes earn less than the minimum wage.

Controls needed

Gilbert Mercene
Gilbert Mercene says he was exploited
Gilbert Mercene has years of experience working as a nurse in the Philippines.

He was found a place in a private nursing home - and then exploited.

He said: "They treat as untrained members of staff, working long hours because they are short of staff, and they are not paying us the right amount."

Record numbers of overseas nurses are coming to work in the UK. Last year the figure was more than 8,000.

Health Secretary Alan Milburn, who last week pledged an extra 35,000 nurses for the NHS by 2008, has indicated that the UK will have to rely increasingly on overseas recruitment.

Unacceptable

Dr Beverley Malone, RCN General Secretary, said: "It is not acceptable that nurses are paying commission to recruitment agencies to work in the UK.

Overseas nurses survey
Half plan to stay in the UK for more than 4 years
85% have more than 5 years experience
48% feel UK colleagues are treated better
"It is an abuse of an essential and low-paid group of workers who will have already have had to meet various costs such as air fares.

"At a time of acute nurse shortages when we are heavily reliant on internationally recruited nurses it is important that their skills and experience are valued.

"The majority of nurses coming here do so for the potential for professional development in the NHS and it is up to us to make sure that it is a good experience."

The Department of Health has issued a code of practice for international recruitment, but the RCN wants mandatory guidance to cover recruitment agencies as well as the NHS.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Karen Allen in Harrogate
"One in three are coming through independent agencies sometime forced to pay huge fees"
Dee Borley, RCN nurse welfare line
"Some nurses are being paid half the level of a UK newly-qualified nurse"
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