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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 March 2007, 00:56 GMT
The lure of nursing 'Down Under'
By Paul Burnell
BBC Real Story

Sarah Hector
Sarah Hector said most NHS employees are disillusioned
They entered nursing with high hopes of working in a valued profession which made a difference to people's lives.

But the staff shortages and cash cutbacks have taken their toll on nurses such as Sarah Hector and Rob Carey who have joined the exodus of staff heading for Australia.

According to the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) 3,200 nurses of the 8,000 registering to work abroad want to work Down Under.

Senior intensive care nurse Sarah, left her job in London worn down by the National Health Service's problems.

"I was sad to leave the people and my friends because the people here are brilliant but it's just the conditions, the lack of staff, the lack of finance that I'm not sad to be leaving," she told BBC One's Real Story.

"You just come away each day feeling demoralised. You've given your utmost best yet you still can't give the level of care that your are trained to do and would so love to give."

She added: "I think my grievance with the NHS is a national thing - I think it is shared all over the UK.

"Everybody who works within the NHS, I think to a certain extent are disillusioned and would like change."

Glynda Summers
We found a lot of despondent nurses when we were in the UK
Glynda Summers, executive director of nursing at Cairns Base Hospital

Australian hospitals are targeting UK trusts with budget problems - a recruitment drive made easier by the revelation from the RCN to the health select committee last October that 19,400 posts have been lost or frozen in the past year.

Glynda Summers, executive director of nursing at Cairns Base Hospital, who has recruited in the UK said: "We found a lot of despondent nurses when we were over there - we got the feeling they had nowhere to go in the UK."

And with an estimated 71% of newly qualified nurses unable to find work Australian hospitals are now receiving applications from this group.

Said Sarah: "I left because I love nursing and I want to continued nursing and cannot continue in England - it's a great shame that I am having to resort to Australia."

Psychiatric nurse Rob, had worked in the community before cuts in his trust meant that he was redeployed and returned to working as a staff nurse on a ward.

After five years in the profession he senses a dead end in the UK.

"You don't just become a nurse overnight. You find there's no jobs, there's not much career progression, there's not much money in the trust - I feel very sad about that," he said.

When I got here they had a strict five to one ratio - five patients to one nurse - and I just thought oh my goodness because that would never have happened in England
Hannah Mortimer, UK nurse in Australia

"I don't want to just be leaving a shift thinking, 'cor, thank God we got through that one!'

"I want to be leaving a shift saying, 'yeah I'm tired, but we've really done some good today and it's been safe."

Over in Australia, Sarah was welcomed on her induction course by Hannah Mortimer, before starting work at the Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney.

Hannah is another British nurse who moved planning a temporary stay but who is now looking to settle.

It is easy to see the attraction.

"I've been here for two years. You're really well supported, really well educated whereas where I used to work in the UK you'd have 12 to 15 patients and it would just be dangerous.

"When I got here they had a strict five to one ratio - five patients to one nurse - and I just thought oh my goodness because that would never have happened in England," she added.

Rob Carey
Rob Carey sees the NHS as a dead end

Ironically a leaked NHS report in January predicted a long term shortage of nurses with a shortfall of 14,000 expected in three years time.

However the Department of Health insists the exodus of nurses is not causing any crisis.

A DoH spokesperson said: "A proportion of UK nurses have always migrated to work in Australia each year, in the same way that some Australian nurses choose to follow their careers in the UK.

"Whilst there is now more competition for posts, the NHS is a very large employer and will continue to need new staff to replace those who retire or take career breaks."

The DoH added: "Over recent years the NHS has made huge strides in becoming a model employer, through the introduction of new pay contracts that reward staff appropriately and through the Improving Working Lives standard, which provides access to flexible working and affordable childcare."

Real Story: Nurses on the Run is on Thursday 22 March at 1900 GMT on BBC One.

Are you a nurse? Have you been tempted by the career prospects offered abroad? If you are new to the profession how easy is it to find work? Is enough being done by the NHS to attract and retain good nurses? Send us your comments and experiences using the form below:

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Working as a nurse in Australia
22 Mar 07 |  Real Story


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