Overseas nurses no longer needed here

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Hospital bosses in Wigan have revealed they are no longer recruiting nurses from abroad.

Wrightington, Wigan And Leigh NHS Foundation Trust is instead looking to develop a nursing school to train more people locally.

The trust, which runs hospitals including Wigan Infirmary, took the decision before the Brexit referendum, but has only just made it public.

Amanda Cheesman, assistant director of nursing (professional practice), said: “Retention of staff recruited from the EU had been good with low attrition.

“The organisation took a decision following a cost benefit analysis that it would be more effective to address the recruitment and retention challenges presented to our workforce by becoming a trailblazer for the Trainee Nursing Associate pilot.

“This also allowed the trust to explore the development of a ‘nursing school’ to develop nursing pathways and ‘grow nurses’ from the local communities using opportunities presented to us via the apprenticeship levy.

“The decision was made before Brexit that we would not be pursuing any further international recruitment for the foreseeable future.”

Nurses from across the EU and further afield have played a vital role in the NHS in recent years.

Around one in five nurses recruited in England in 2015/16 were non-British EU nationals, up from one in 14 in 2011/12.

Over the same period, the proportion of British nurses joining hospitals dropped.

Last year, Pauline Law, the trust’s director of nursing, said nurses had been recruited from countries such as Spain, Portugal, Cyprus, Italy, Czech Republic, Slovakia Greece and Croatia.

Then Leigh MP and now Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham suggested earlier this year that the European referendum vote could cost the health service some of its talent from abroad.

But this week a big drop in the number of nurses from the EU registering to work in the UK has been blamed by the Government on new language tests rather than Brexit.

Health minister Lord O’Shaughnessy said ministers were aware of the 96 per cent fall in EU-trained nurses applying to register with the Nursing And Midwifery Council (NMC).

But he said the health department’s assessment suggested “this is largely a consequence of the NMC introducing language testing rather than the vote to leave the EU”.

Labour spokesman Lord Hunt said the 96 per cent drop came on top of a shortage of thousands of nurses in the NHS.

He said it was quite clear the fall was to do with “the Government’s obsession with migration control at the expense of our public services and the imposition of a pay cap on nurses and other NHS staff”.

Lord O’Shaughnessy said language testing was introduced in November 2016.

There had been no “significant drop-off” in applications from EU countries after Brexit and before that point, but a “big downturn in applications” afterwards.