Robbing Peter to Pay Paul: Why insisting on UK experience exacerbates the workforce crisis

Our clients often ask us for junior and middle-grade clinicians with UK experience. At first glance, this appears harmless. However, David Green, Remedium’s CEO, explains why moving these doctors from one NHS trust to another does nothing to address the national staffing shortfall.

The NHS workforce crisis is now at such a critical juncture. Pre-Covid-19, it was estimated that there were 100,000 vacancies across the NHS workforce; 11,000 of which were for qualified doctors. However, the pandemic has placed even greater pressure on an already exhausted and stretched workforce, with self-isolation leading to increased staff absences in the shorter term, and recent research suggesting that even more staff will retire early in the long-term due to Covid-burnout.

It is widely recognised that we’ve not trained enough doctors in the UK to meet demand and so it is vital that the UK increases educational opportunities for young trainee clinicians by investing in more medical school placements. However, increasing the number of doctors going through training will help, but not immediately. So, given the pressing national staff shortages we face right now, the NHS must look to recruit more trained doctors from overseas to plug the gap.

“Increased ethical international recruitment will be vital to addressing the current NHS workforce crisis.”

– The King’s Fund

Given the urgency of this staffing issue and a widespread acceptance of the need for increased recruitment from overseas, I am surprised by the number of NHS trust clients who ask Remedium to assist with sourcing high calibre clinical candidates with UK experience as a minimum requirement. If we continue recruiting doctors from one NHS trust and placing them in another, how will we ever tackle the workforce crisis?

As it stands, the UK simply does not have enough of our own and so we must bring in junior and middle-grade clinicians from overseas to meet the shortfall. If NHS trusts do not close this gap urgently, remaining staff will continue being left to carry the burden by working increasingly longer shifts, taking fewer days off and carrying a heavier workload – leading to the kind of workplace stress that provides the breeding ground for UK doctors’ burnout, mental ill health and early retirement.

“If we continue recruiting doctors from one NHS trust and placing them in another, how will we ever tackle the workforce crisis?”

– David Green, CEO at Remedium

Historically, the UK has always looked overseas to staff our NHS. According to recent government statistics, 1 in 7 NHS staff report a non-British nationality and 20 percent of hospital doctors are non-EU nationals. It is for this reason that I simply cannot understand why the provenance of a doctor’s experience is of concern. All doctors who come from abroad to work in the NHS must have passed the relevant exams for their specialty and meet rigorous GMC-mandated English language requirements. Should their extensive training and career experience really count for less, just because it was gained in another country? Granted, the NHS is a unique system and clinicians will inevitably take time to get up to speed, but surely anyone moving from one job to another will need time to adapt to new surroundings and a new way of working.

When I co-founded Remedium in 2013, I did so with a strong vision and purpose – to solve the UK healthcare staffing crisis. Today, the outbreak of Covid-19 has significantly impacted an already dwindling workforce. It has, of course, put the immense resilience of our NHS heroes in the national spotlight, but it has also, no doubt, exposed what lies ahead for the NHS in the future if we don’t act now. We remain dedicated to our mission and so continue to advocate for the increased recruitment of permanent doctors from overseas.

If you would like to learn more about how we can support your trust to navigate the workforce crisis, get in touch with our workforce consultancy team today or follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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