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Last Updated: Friday, 11 August 2006, 21:53 GMT 22:53 UK
Foreign nurse clampdown comes in
By Branwen Jeffreys
BBC News health correspondent

Nurses on the ward
Jobs on the wards are hard to get
Restrictions on international nurse recruitment are set to come into force in the NHS in England on Monday.

The government says the health service no longer needs to recruit from overseas to meet health service needs.

But the change comes as nurse leaders warn up to 70% of newly qualified nurses cannot find jobs in the health service.

And university leaders warn planned cuts in training budgets could lead to shortages of nurses in the future.

I feel really disillusioned and let down by the health service
Newly qualified nurse Lisa Poole

Nurse training is paid for out of regional NHS budgets.

Latest figures show that in 2004-05 the national average cost of tuition to train a nurse over the three years of their course was 19,740.

Diploma students would also be entitled to a non-means tested bursary, which in 2004-05 averaged 6,547.

The number of training places, determined by the NHS on a regional basis, is being reined back as training funds are raided to offset NHS deficits.

'Bleak'

Lisa Poole recently completed her training at the University of the West of England.

She was so confident of getting a nursing job that she took on a mortgage when she began training.

I've never seen a situation this serious before
Helen Willets, Royal College of Nursing

But she cannot even find temporary work through nursing agencies

"I feel really disillusioned and let down by the health service. I really want to work in nursing but if I can't I'll have to get another job just to pay my bills."

Her predicament is shared by thousands of others around England, according to the Royal College of Nursing.

One of the areas worst effected is the East Midlands.

Helen Willets, regional director for the RCN, said: "It's pretty bleak. On average, only around 10% of our newly qualified nurses are being placed. I've never seen a situation this serious before."

'Storing up problems'

But there are warnings that there might be too few nurses in the future.

The Council of Deans warns the planned cutbacks in nurse training budgets for this academic year will have a long-term impact.

Universities have been told that between 10 and 30% fewer nurse training places will be funded by the NHS.

They say it is a short term measure, caused by the need to address NHS deficits, and nothing to do with the actual future needs of patients.

Professor Steve West, deputy vice chancellor at the University of the West of England, said it was a dire situation that stored up problems.

"If we don't see a stabilisation of education funding, there's potential for healthcare to be effected adversely with not enough people on wards to deliver care."

He is worried the NHS could be forced to return to the more controversial measure of seeking nurses from abroad.

'Financial balance'

Tom Sanford, RCN director for England, added: "I'm concerned that we've seen two short term measures introduced this summer - restrictions on nurses from overseas and a reduction in number of nurses we intend to train in UK.

"Both are short term measures, because as a result of deficits we have slight overcapacity in number of nurses available in the UK this year."

Health minister Lord Warner said it was up to Strategic Health Authorities (SHAs) to determine their future workforce need.

"Early indications from SHAs suggest that the level of reductions in planned nurse training commissions is variable across the country."

He said there was a commitment to nurse training, but the NHS had to balance its books.

He added: "Local NHS employers are working very hard to find openings for new graduates but, as the opportunities will vary across the country, graduates are advised to be as flexible as possible over where and in which clinical fields they wish to work."




SEE ALSO
Foreign nurses clampdown by NHS
03 Jul 06 |  Health

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