New research has revealed that one in five NHS jobs are filled by non-UK nationals. A third of doctors and nurses working in the health service have moved to Britain from abroad, the highest proportion since 2009.
NHS Digital Data found that the overall foreign national figure for NHS England in September 2023 was 20.4 percent. This is up from 13 percent in 2016 and 11.9 percent in 2009.
The most common non-UK nationality in the NHS is Indian, with people from India comprising 10.1 percent of full-time equivalent nurses and health visitors, and eight percent of doctors.
The data shows 3.7 percent of NHS doctors currently are from Pakistan, 2.9 percent are from Egypt, and two percent are from Nigeria.
Filipino employees make up 7.7 percent of nurses and health visitors, Nigerians 2.5 percent, and Irish 1.1 percent.
Chief executive of NHS Employers, Danny Mortimer, said the numbers show “how reliant the NHS has become on its talented international workforce”.
He added that without them the NHS “could have very easily buckled under the pressures it has been put under”.
But The Nuffield Trust researcher Lucina Rolewicz warns: “This is far from a sustainable, long-term solution.”
Assistant director of policy at the health charity The King’s Fund, Alex Baylis, notes that there are currently 120,000 jobs empty across NHS England, including 42,000 in nursing, and 9,000 in medicine.
He added: “Since professional training takes several years, the NHS will be highly dependent on recruiting from overseas for the next five years, and retaining current staff, if vacancies are to be filled.”
Last year, the NHS long-term workforce plan pledged to halve the number of foreign national doctors over the coming 15 years and double the number of medical school places for home-grown graduates.
Overall, 214 nationalities are now represented across the NHS, with India, Portugal, and Ghana in the top 10.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “International recruitment has a valuable role in helping the NHS deliver its world-class care, but it is important we boost the domestic workforce and decrease our reliance on agency staff and overseas workers.
“The first ever NHS long-term workforce plan was commissioned by the government to train, retain and reform the workforce, and put the NHS on a sustainable footing into the future.
“Backed by £2.4bn, the plan will double the number of medical school places, almost double the number of adult nurse training places, and increase the number of GP training places by 50% by 2031.”