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NHS leaders told to accelerate international recruitment as 800 nurses join register in a week

Published on: 16 Dec 2021

NHS leaders have been urged to seize the ‘big opportunity to maximise support from overseas nurses once again’, with 800 new arrivals set to join the English register next week alone.

During a webinar for NHS leaders on Tuesday, deputy chief nurse for England Duncan Burton also called on trust leaders to “bring forward” the travel of international nurses already recruited by the NHS and “waiting overseas” to come to the UK.

“Let us know if there is anything we can do to help and assist with that or speak to your regional international recruitment team,” Mr Burton said. “[There is a] big opportunity here to maximise support from overseas nurses once again.”

Mr Burton said on the webinar that around 800 international nurses should be joining the register next week alone, with another 900 due to go through their objective structured clinical examination – an assessment a nurse must pass before registration in the UK – between now and the end of December.

“I would ask for as much support as possible to make sure they get to their OSCE, meaning they get registered in early January,” Mr Burton said.

Mr Burton added there were 1,800 nurses due to take their OSCE in January and encouraged leaders on the call to “bring forward” people once they are ready and to “escalate any blockages to us”.

The UK has seen about 1,500 international nurses arriving every month since April this year, the webinar was told, with 1,000 waiting for their “post-OSCE document check” this month.

“The NMC (Nursing and Midwifery Council) is working extremely hard to make sure those people are registered as quickly as possible,” Mr Burton said.

During the same webinar leaders had the opportunity to ask the senior NHS England team questions; one asked for clarification about protocol when a household contact of a healthcare worked has covid.

NHS England national clinical director for antimicrobial resistance and infection prevention and control Dr Mark Wilcox said: “The intention is if you are a healthcare worker at least double vaccinated and a household contact, you do a negative PCR, then lateral flows and then come back to work so we don’t lose swaths of the workforce unnecessarily.”

He said the idea was to “release people who are household contacts of whatever strain”.

UK Health Security Agency guidance was updated yesterday to reflect this, no longer requiring contacts of Omicron cases to self-isolate for ten days as it becomes the dominant strain in many parts of the country.