BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Health  
News Front Page
Middle East
South Asia
Medical notes
Talking Point
Country Profiles
In Depth
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
Thursday, 18 July, 2002, 08:03 GMT 09:03 UK
NHS nurses tempted by foreign riches
Nurse takes blood pressure reading
There is a shortage of skilled nurses
US nursing companies are stepping up efforts to attract disenchanted UK recruits - offering some the chance to double their salary.

The drive could weaken government efforts to increase nurse numbers.

Firms are offering online application forms to speed the process.

The US is a very competitive country

Dr Beverly Malone, Royal College of Nursing
A massive nursing shortage in the US means that at least 1m more must be recruited over the next eight years - and health systems there are prepared to pay far more highly for skilled workers.

Top nurses there earn salaries comparable with those taken home by doctors in the UK - often double the salary that their NHS counterpart would command.

Vacancy crisis

Registered nurses are in short supply in the NHS, and while pay has improved relative to inflation in recent years, morale is still low in many parts of the health service.

A poor standard of living, particularly in south east England, where housing costs are high, means that vacancies are tough to fill.

Losing hundreds more to attractive offers from the US and elsewhere could compound the problem.

The government has attempted a short-term fix by recruiting hundreds from the Phillipines, the Caribbean, India and South Africa.

In the 1990s only one in 10 new nurses was recruited from overseas - last year half of the 30,000 new nurses came from abroad.

Competitive employers

Dr Beverly Malone, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, was formerly a US nurse herself.

Beverly Malone
Dr Beverly Malone: US is attractive option
She said: "As a nurse who came from the United States to here I would say there is a great opportunity to do work here."

She added: "The US is a very competitive country."

Sylvia Mullarkey, managing director for "Assignment America", one firm advertising in the UK for nurses, said: "Facilities are very interested in employing UK nurses because they are highly skilled and have a great bedside manner."

She denied "hoovering up" supplies of nurses from the NHS.

"We do not go out there and scoop up nurses from these countries.

"But we do have nurses who call us and are interested in working in the US.

"Our goal is the needs of the US."

The RCN is still concerned that the government's own recruitment drive may be unethical - taking skilled nurses from health systems in developing countries that can ill afford to lose them.

We do not actively recruit staff from developing countries

Department of Health spokesman
They are calling for the publication of a complete list of the countries from which ministers will not be recruiting.

"Nursing is a global profession and the international mobility of nurses is not new," she said.

"However, patient care in one country must not be at the expense of patients elsewhere."

The Department of Health defended its policy, saying: "We do not actively recruit staff from developing countries, either directly or through commercial agencies, unless we have their government's agreement.

"This is in accordance with the guidelines set out in the International Code of Practice published by the Department last year.

"However, recruitment may occur from developing countries if individuals decide independently and voluntarily to apply for registration in the UK and for jobs in the NHS."

See also:

07 Mar 02 | Health
19 Feb 02 | Health
07 Feb 02 | Health
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Health stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Health stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |