• +44-7817-48-6996
  • contact@healthcareprocurementagency.com
  • London
‘Red list’ work­ers boost the NHS and their nat­ive coun­tries.

‘Red list’ work­ers boost the NHS and their nat­ive coun­tries.

From Helen Dempster, London SW1P, UK

Source: https://www.ft.com/content/94cd30e0-0e64-428c-a1da-7470825bdf52

I read with interest your article outlining the increase in the number of workers from “red list” countries who are entering the UK to work within the NHS as nurses (“Nurses from ‘red list’ nations boost NMC register”, Report, FT.com, November 30).

First, the UK can recruit nurses from red list countries if the UK has a bilateral labour agreement that offers some kind of “mutual benefit” to the country of origin. The UK is far ahead of other high-income countries in this regard. They understand the need to provide “compensation” to countries of origin; the Department of Health and Social Care is engaging in discussions with red list countries and has pledged £15mn to health systems in Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria.

Second, of course, in the absence of bilateral labour agreements, nurses from red list countries can apply for a health and care visa and come anyway. This is what is happening with Nigeria, Ghana and Zambia. However, as long as NHS trusts aren’t actively recruiting them (such as using private recruitment agents), they can hire them. One way to curb this would be to say that NHS trusts can only hire people from red list countries if they have migrated through a bilateral labour agreement. This would reduce numbers and, more importantly, ensure the UK government contributes more to strengthening health systems in countries of origin.

Third, what always gets lost in this debate is the huge benefit that such migration brings to the nurses themselves, their families and communities, and even their countries of origin. Migrants from red list countries send financial remittances, as well as transfers of skills and knowledge. There is also evidence that the availability of such migration pathways induces more people to take up nursing as a career, even if they never leave their home country.

Finally, the UK should be investing more in training and retaining nurses (and, even more crucially, social care workers).

But in the meantime, there is more that the UK could be doing to increase the development impact of red list migration. In particular, the UK should seek to enter more bilateral labour agreements with such countries, managing migration in a sustainable way, reducing the cost of sending remittances and facilitating more investments into training, education and health systems strengthening.

Helen Dempster
Deputy Director, Migration, Displacement, and Humanitarian Policy Programme, Center for Global Development, London SW1P, UK