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Health Secretary Steve Barclay considers overseas hiring spree for care homes

2BGG6R7 Staff assist a man using a zimmer frame at a residential care home in Redcar, UK. 2/2/2018. Photograph: Stuart Bolton.
2BGG6R7 Staff assist a man using a zimmer frame at a residential care home in Redcar, UK. 2/2/2018. Photograph: Stuart Bolton.

New plans are being considered to recruit foreign workers for the UK’s care homes amid concerns about staff shortages this winter.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Our new international recruitment taskforce is considering innovative ways to boost staffing numbers within health and adult social care.

“As part of this, we will work with the sector and recruitment experts to examine how to recruit staff from overseas more effectively into adult social care.”

Health Secretary Steve Barclay wants the overseas recruitment spree to include sending NHS managers to countries such as India and the Philippines to hire thousands of nurses, The Times reported.

The paper added Mr Barclay is also looking to make it easier for regulators to check international qualifications so that staff can begin working more quickly.

It comes, however, just two weeks after concerns were expressed over NHS staffing in England when an analysis of workforce figures found the health service may be becoming over-reliant on recruits from abroad.

Figures from NHS Digital showed the share of healthcare staff recruited from overseas almost doubled between 2014 and 2021, according to BBC analysis on August 5.

Steve Barclay, arrives for a cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street
Steve Barclay wants to recruit nurses from countries including India and the Philippines to help the sector (James Manning/PA)

Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, at the time called for “urgent action” from the Government to tackle “chronic staff shortages in the longer term”.

He said: “International recruits have always been an important component of the NHS workforce. We recognise and highly value the contribution our overseas staff make to our teams and the care we provide to our patients.

“International recruitment should be seen as one part of a multistrand approach to workforce planning and the Government’s Code of Practice for international recruitment helps employers ensure they are adhering to ethical recruitment practices.

“While there is also a focus on growing and retaining the domestic workforce, we can’t escape the fact that there are 105,000 vacancies in the NHS and 165,000 vacancies in social care. We are in need of urgent action and the new prime minister must commit to publishing a fully costed and funded workforce plan to tackle chronic staff shortages in the longer term.”

That call was echoed by Dr Kitty Mohan, chair of the international committee at the British Medical Society, who said the service does “not have enough” staff.

“The simple fact is that we do not have enough doctors, nurses and other healthcare staff to meet the growing and increasingly complex healthcare needs of our population,” Dr Mohan said earlier in the month.

“We are calling for the Government and NHS England to publish a long-term workforce strategy as soon as possible,” she added.