Stats indicate that 20% of NHS England roles are filled by foreign nationals, with foreign nationals accounting for 30% of nurses and 36.3% of doctors in England. A record-setting one in five NHS roles in England are held by non-UK nationals, leading experts to express concerns about the sustainability of relying on overseas workers. Analysis revealed that of the total 1,282,623 full-time equivalent hospital and community health service staff, 20.4% were foreign nationals. This is the highest proportion ever recorded, with the figure having been 11.9% in September 2009 and 13% in 2016.
By profession, 30% of nurses and health visitors and 36.3% of doctors are non-UK nationals. The most common non-UK nationality for both doctors and nurses was Indian, while other nationalities include Pakistani, Egyptian, Filipino, and Irish.
The reliance on foreign workers in the NHS has prompted warnings from key figures in the field. Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, emphasized the importance of retention alongside the attraction of new staff. Think tanks and health charities also cautioned against the UK’s dependency on foreign workers, citing the need for the continued expansion of training and education.
In response to these concerns, the government has announced a 15-year plan to expand domestic medical training, aiming to employ an extra 300,000 nurses, doctors, and other health workers. An official from the Department of Health and Social Care highlighted the plan’s focus on increasing medical school places and nurse training places to reduce reliance on international staff.
However, the practice of recruiting medical professionals from certain low-income countries has raised ethical concerns. The government’s Code of Practice for International Recruitment aims to prevent the active recruitment of medics from these countries, emphasizing the need to avoid undermining health systems in areas with severe workforce challenges.