2015 08 JUN
Britain’s healthcare industry is suffering a nursing shortage of 24,000 staff this year, driven by a decline in student places, tougher immigration rules and spending cuts.
Despite a strong rise in EU immigration, 7,000 fewer nurses came to the UK in 2014-15 compared with 2003-04, according to Christie & Co, a consultancy. Spanish nurses were the most likely to come here in 2015, followed by nurses from Portugal and Italy.
The decline in overseas nurses was due in part to tougher immigration rules that mean they require pre-arranged sponsorship from an employer in the UK. In addition, they have to leave the country after a maximum of six years.
Pete Calveley, chief executive of Barchester Healthcare, the third-biggest operator of care homes in the UK and a contributor to the report, said: “We want to recruit from India, South Africa and the Philippines as these nurses are a very high calibre generally. But we cannot. We hope that with the completion of the election, the political climate will be a better one to discuss immigration policy regarding nurses. It is critical.”
But Michael Hodges, director at Christie & Co, called the shortage a “homegrown problem”, adding: “Essentially we are suffering poor workplace planning as a result of austerity measures in recent years.”
Since 2013, qualification as a registered nurse has required a three-year university degree but the number of publicly funded student places fell from 22,000 in 2008-09 to 17,000 in 2012-13. As a result 3,000 fewer graduates entered the Nursing and Midwifery Council register in 2014-15 compared with 2013-14.
Care homes — most of which are run by the private sector — are finding it hardest to recruit staff, according to the survey, which found vacancy rates were 9 per cent compared with 7 per cent in the National Health Service this year.
Over the past two years, the largest nursing home groups reported an average increase of 55 per cent in use of agency workers to fill the gaps, Christie & Co found. The sharp rise has had a knock-on effect on costs. Agency staff cost 100 per cent more on a per hour basis than regular staff, the report said.
Essentially we are suffering poor workplace planning as a result of austerity measures in recent years.