Curbs on private sector recruitment of health staff from poor countries welcomed but monitoring needed urgently, says The King's Fund

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The King's Fund today welcomed government proposals to prevent NHS hospitals from poaching health workers from developing countries, but warned the move will have limited impact unless it is strictly monitored.

The Department of Health today strengthened its code of practice to ensure the private sector can no longer supply NHS Trusts with health workers from countries such as the Philippines, India, Ghana and Nigeria. The move prevents hospitals from actively recruiting nurses and other health professionals from developing countries, although it does not stop 'passive' recruitment of overseas staff who arrive unsolicited.

The King's Fund research consultant James Buchan said:

'We support this move to limit the active recruitment of nurses and other health workers from developing countries, some of which are experiencing huge shortages of trained staff themselves. Overseas health workers help to provide vital extra capacity that's needed to improve NHS patient care, but we must ensure that we do not create a worse situation in the countries they come from. It is critical that NHS and private sector employers comply with the new code, but it will need adequate monitoring to ensure effectiveness.'

The proposals will lead to training support for international staff. A Royal College of Nursing survey in July 2004 found that 14 per cent of its members based in London had qualified outside the UK. A King's Fund report earlier this year found that London depends far more on overseas trained health care workers than the rest of the country. One hospital featured in the study revealed that one in four of its nurses was trained overseas.

Notes to editors

1. For further information or interviews, please contact Beverley Cohen at the King's Fund media and public relations office on 020 7307 2632 or 07774 218439.

2. The King's Fund published London Calling? The international recruitment of health workers to the capital in July 2004. This will be followed up in spring 2005 by a report based on 1,000 interviews with nurses recruited from overseas and now based in London.

3. The King's Fund is an independent charitable foundation working for better health, especially in London. We carry out research, policy analysis and development activities, working on our own, in partnerships, and through grants. We are a major resource to people working in health, offering leadership and education courses; seminars and workshops; publications; information and library services; and conference and meeting facilities.