Image: © NHS Employers via Flickr

The NHS is running out of nurses

It plans to recruit 100,000 nurses from abroad to try and fix a big staff shortage.

The UK’s National Health Service currently has 40,000 unfilled nursing jobs. According to the chairwoman of NHS Improvement it is their “biggest and most urgent” issue because it means ill people in Britain aren’t getting the best medical care they could be. That in turn may lead to slower or less thorough recoveries and more deaths.

The NHS thinks its nurse shortage could be solved by immigration. It plans to recruit 5,000 nurses from abroad every year until at least 2040. There are multiple benefits to this strategy. Some of the countries it is looking for nurses from, like India and the Philippines, are significantly less wealthy than the UK. Consequently, many of these nurses (and their families) will receive big economic benefits from moving to a place with higher living standards (including, ironically, free healthcare).

And if the new nurses send money back to relatives and friends in their birth country, as many migrants do, it could have a positive effect on these place's economies too. Remittance money can support local businesses, or help individuals set up shops or get a better education.

But there are also problems with the NHS’s plan. The countries the nurses are recruited from will lose useful and skilled workers, which may mean their own healthcare service gets worse. The plan may annoy the large chunk of Brits who are firmly against increased immigration. And it doesn’t fix the poor working conditions that are causing current NHS nurses to quit the profession in droves; a third of the departees say “stress” is their reason for leaving.

Read our explainer on: immigration.

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