There are some 342,300 nurses working in NHS hospital and community health services, and 23,900 working in general practice.1 Yet vacancies are widespread: there were 39,000 full-time equivalent nurse vacancies by mid-2021, representing a 10% vacancy rate. The equivalent figure for doctors is 7%.
The 2019 NHS Long Term Plan committed to reducing the nursing vacancy rate to 5% by 2028. Later that year, the government pledged to increase the number of NHS nurses by 50,000 by 2025. Achieving these ambitious goals will require sustained effort using a variety of approaches, including improved retention, an increase in the number of nurses being trained domestically, and attracting previous NHS workers back into practice and employment. However, given the time required taken to train new nurses, recruitment of international staff remains vital for addressing the current widespread vacancies.
This new research, commissioned by NHS England and NHS Improvement, explores the business case for overseas nurse recruitment, quantifying the various costs and how long recruits stay in post.
In this briefing, we consider lessons for the NHS. Our research report presents the data and analysis we carried out in more depth.
We have also conducted a review on factors that attract or deter staff from choosing to work in the NHS in England, based on interviews, data analysis and a literature review. The report draws out the contribution of overseas recruitment to the supply of staff and some of the key push and pull factors in the decision to move. We also looked at what influences nurses' selection of a particular trust or region and how the recruitment process works.
Download report on drivers affecting international recruitment [PDF 350.4KB]
There was a full research report delivered to NHS England which can be downloaded here.
Palmer W, Leone C and Appleby J (2021) Return on investment of overseas nurse recruitment: lessons for the NHS Briefing, Nuffield Trust
Palmer W, Leone C, Pew A, Davies M and Appleby J (2021) Recruitment of nurses from overseas: return on investment Research report, Nuffield Trust
Palmer W, Leone C and Appleby J (2021) Recruitment of nurses from overseas: Exploring the factors affecting levels of international recruitment Research report, Nuffield Trust