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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 March 2008, 13:04 GMT
Many UK nurses quit for Australia
By Jane Dreaper
Health correspondent, BBC News

There is an international demand for nurses
The Royal College of Nursing has warned that too many UK nurses are being lured to work in Australia.

Last year almost 5,000 nurses formally signalled an intention to find work in Australian hospitals.

The RCN's head of policy conceded nurses were receiving attractive offers, but said the UK still needed the nurses it was training.

The Australian recruitment drive comes as the number of foreign nurses seeking work in the UK is falling.

There is a belief that in the UK we don't need the nurses we've got - but we know we do need them
Howard Catton
Royal College of Nursing

Howard Catton, the RCN's head of policy, told the BBC he had met employers who had come to the UK to recruit 60 nurses at a time - but had ended up making offers to double that number.

Mr Catton said the efforts were founded on a belief that there was unemployment among NHS nurses - but the UK still needed the staff it was training.

He said: "The Australians have stepped up their recruitment activity on the basis of what they believe is unemployment and downsizing in the UK.

"There is a belief that in the UK we don't need the nurses we've got - but we know we do need them.

"The Australian recruitment agencies that I've spoken to since I've been here are making very attractive offers.

"It's not just the starting salaries. The packages include air travel - for nurses' families as well - relocation expenses, temporary accommodation and the promise that they'll support an application for permanent residency.

"A couple of employers even offer a 'meet and greet' service at the airport with chauffeur-driven limousines, so the nurses are made to feel welcome as soon as their feet touch the ground.

"Nurses have always historically left the UK and gone to Australia but the numbers have doubled recently.

"We still believe there are nursing shortages in the UK - both in the NHS and the private sector."

Many retirements

Recent figures suggested that hundreds of newly-qualified nurses and midwives are struggling to find work in the NHS months after graduating.

However, the RCN has warned that with 180,000 nurses due to retire in the next decade and immigration restrictions on overseas nurses in place, NHS demand for nurses will intensify.

But the Department of Health did not share the RCN's sense of alarm.

A spokesperson said: "The NHS has the nurses it needs. The supply position is healthy, vacancies are very low.

"Nursing has always been a mobile profession. The UK benefits from international nurses coming to work in the NHS, whilst some UK nurses take the opportunity to travel and experience working in healthcare around the globe."

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