Scots health board wins permission to recruit more Australian nurses

NHS Grampian wants to sign up more nurses from Down Under. Picture: Greg Macvean
NHS Grampian wants to sign up more nurses from Down Under. Picture: Greg Macvean
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A Scots health board has won permission to recruit more nurses from Australia, to ease its staffing crisis.

NHS Grampian already has 50 signed up from Down Under. Now it has persuaded the Nursing and Midwifery Council to lift restrictions so it can employ more.

The NMC agreed to relax the rules – meaning nurses and midwives do not need a year of experience on top of their university qualifications to sit its exams.

Senior nurse Elizabeth Wilson made the original scouting trip in 2017, and believes it is a huge opportunity.

She said it was clear Grampian offered an attractive alternative to many, despite the upheaval involved.

“I think we are giving them the opportunity to use their skills, develop and get further training,” she said.

“Many are aware of the NHS and are keen to explore what that experience is like. And there are a lot who have families back in the UK so have that connection.”

Back in 2017 it was revealed the board would be taking an unprecedented recruitment trip to scout potential nurses and midwives.

During their 12-day trip, the nursing team spoke to more than 300 people who were interested in taking up posts.

They have had the support of the Western Australia Department of Health in an effort to ensure nurses’ skills do not go to waste.

A total of 1,783 nurses and midwives applied for a place on their two-year graduate programme, with just 656 able to secure a place, leaving 1,127 without a position.

Jane Ewen, chief nurse in practice education and development, was one of the staff who made the trip.

She said: “We built on our partnership with the department of health that was started last year, they are happy to collaborate with us, because they have a real surplus just now.”

Last year, three of the four recruitment events were managed by external organisations. However, this year the board organised each event itself.

The programme was a mix of presentations and interviews where those in attendance were given an insight into the health board and also the northeast region.

The group even took over some items to give them an insight into the local and national culture – and were surprised at how many people recognised the Aberdeen FC top.

Since then, Ms Wilson and Ms Ewen have been carrying out interviews via video calls, twice a day, beginning early in the morning because of the time difference.

The NMC interim charge is part of a wider review into its overseas registration process for nurses and midwives trained outside of the EEA.

Anyone who secures a visa will be asked to work for a minimum of two years, and will be provided with support to help sit the NMC exams, which consist of a theory and practical element.

In August the board revealed it would be offering homegrown nurses the chance to go the other way and train in Western Australia.