In July 2016, 1034 nurses came to work in the UK from Europe, this year, April 2017, there were 46 Applicants. A 96% drop, which is a startling figure.
The UK does not train enough medical professionals to fill the current demand. Historically the UK has been dependant upon medical staff trained outside the UK helping to fill the shortfall, which in nursing is currently a shortage of around 30,000.
Since 2008 the number of nurses from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) has been falling (fig. 1) and now it looks like, due to uncertainty over the future relationship between Britain and Europe, the EU numbers are falling as well, as demonstrated below (fig. 2).
With the numbers drying up from abroad, Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England is looking at ways to boost numbers nationally “and grow the workforce from within.”
Conservative public policy, whether intentionally or not, has done the opposite. Scrapping the bursaries has meant a 20% reduction in Nursing applications in Feb 2017 and the freeze on wages means it is increasingly difficult to attract nurses back into substantive roles.
British Nurses are some of the best trained in the world, our Universities appear twice in the world ranking of best Nursing Universities, but there are not enough funded places to produce the nurses.
NHS England has announced a new scheme, Nurse First, that it hopes will swell numbers, inspired by, Teach First, a scheme that fast-tracks teachers, mostly expecting teachers to train on the job. The scheme has been remarkably successful, 54% of participates are still teaching.
Fast tracking Nurses seems a risky business when currently Nurses undergo 2-4 years of training. Amazingly the scheme has support from a number of Nursing bodies including the Nursing Times and the RCN.
Further research suggests that the scheme is directed at all Healthcare Professionals who are looking to fast track their careers. The Vision of the project is to grow Nurses into middle management positions, an admirable and much needed vision but it is hard to see how the scheme will increase numbers the same way that Teach First has. The scheme is not training new healthcare professionals, rather improving the skills of those already committed to the health service.
Without any real plans to “grow the workforce from within” and the continued reduction in Nurses arriving from inside and outside the EEA the future looks fairly worrying. Fortunately, there are organisations looking at how to improve the lives of nurses with TECH making the profession more attractive and helping the NHS retain staff more effectively.