The Governments’ 50,000 NHS nurse plan disintegrates

27th May 2020 / United Kingdom
The Governments' 50,000 NHS nurse plan disintegrates

The first year of the government’s plan to significantly boost the NHS workforce has been hit by a significant fall in international recruitment caused by the coronavirus pandemic reports the Health Service journal.

According to senior sources very close to NHS workforce plans, the challenging nature of the international recruitment market during the pandemic will mean increased staffing plans having to be heavily backloaded to reach the target of a net 50,000 increase in nurse numbers by 2024.

One senior figure told HSJ: “Most of the [planned] growth in nursing numbers during 2020-21 was coming from overseas. The government has now written off the first year [of its plan].”

Another senior source closely involved in NHS workforce planning confirmed that “conversations about the 50,000 target are going on” in the knowledge that “international recruitment will be difficult”. In light of this, they said the NHS would “need to keep all the returners” it had attracted back to the service during the pandemic.

HSJ reported at the end of last year that international recruitment would be the single largest contributor of extra nurses in the NHS, according to NHS England and Improvement’s leaked model.

The model that was devised came about because of the deception of government ministers promising 50,000 extra nurses when they knew that was not the case.

This model set out there would be 12,500 international nurses recruited over the next five years, with Health Education England working on the assumption an average of 2,500 nurses will need to be recruited each year.

According to Nursing and Midwifery Council and General Medical Council figures, the number of nurses and doctors joining the register from abroad had been growing at an increased rate. In 2019 the GMC noted the number of doctors joining the register from abroad was higher than those joining from the UK.

Yes, so bad is it to be working in the NHS in the time of this government – that more doctors will be from overseas than from Britain itself.

Brexit has meant that instead of having doctors and nurses from Spain, Portugal and Germany – they now come from the Philipines and India.

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One NHS trust chief executive, who wished to remain anonymous, said their trust had started to see restrictions slowly being lifted across the countries they actively recruit from.

An NHS England spokesman said: “Looking out over the next few years it is obvious that the NHS will need to expand staffing substantially, and the unprecedented response to the coronavirus pandemic has also pointed to new opportunities for growing the UK NHS workforce.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said: “We have not set specific targets for recruiting nurses from abroad.”

“We remain committed to delivering 50,000 more nurses and from September we’re providing £5,000 a year for all student nurses.”


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