IN 2021, nearly half of the new nurses and midwives registered to work in the UK have come from abroad, with India and the Philippines supplying the most, a media report said. 

Last year, a record high of more than 23,000 nurses and midwives joined the workforce when the country is struggling to increase the number of home-grown nurses, the BBC reported.

These figures have raised questions about the sustainability of international recruitment on this scale.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council data for 2021-22 also showed the numbers leaving the profession had risen.

More than 27,000 left the register last year, up 13 per cent on the year before and reversing a downward trend in leavers over recent years, the report added. But nearly one in five who left the service last year blamed too much pressure.

During the pandemic, many employees have put off retirement to help out in the emergency phase of Covid-19.

Overall the numbers on the register, which also includes a small number of nursing associates, rose by nearly 26,500 to more than 758,000, the highest number ever. One in five are from abroad.

According to the BBC, nearly all of the international recruits that have arrived in 2021 were trained in countries outside Europe.

Before Brexit, Europe supplied more than the rest of the world.

The register covers those qualified to work in the UK – it is not the same as the numbers working in the NHS. Currently around one in 10 nursing posts are unfilled.

Nursing and Midwifery Council chief executive Andrea Sutcliffe said it was “good news” that the register was at the highest level ever, given the pressures of the past two years.

According to her, people leave the profession due to “pressure” and “reliance on internationally trained staff” are troubling factors.

She said the supply of international recruits could always be disrupted by global events or even another pandemic.

Royal College of Nursing general secretary Pat Cullen questioned the sustainability and ethics of such a level of recruitment from abroad, and called for increased investment in domestic training and better pay for staff.

The government said the NHS followed ethical recruitment practices, by not recruiting from a red list of countries which have declared shortages of health care staff.

All parts of the UK have set out plans to increase the number of nurses and midwives in the NHS.

The overall number of nurses currently in training has started to rise after the reintroduction of some funding support for student nurses in England in 2020, three years after bursaries were scrapped, the BBC report said.

Health secretary Sajid Javid said the overall rise in nurse numbers was pleasing – and continued progress would help England achieve the government’s manifesto promise to recruit 50,000 more nurses by 2024.