The NHS will create thousands of posts for British nurses in a bid to slash the £3 billion bill for agency staff, under new plans being drafted by Department of Health officials.
The Telegraph reports that ministers are considering the new workforce plan to recruit homegrown medical workers, which are being drawn up amid concerns that Brexit will leave the NHS short of staff.
News of the plans to recruit what the Telegraph described as an “army of British nurses” comes a day after the chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing warned the NHS could “go under” amid Brexit uncertainty.
Janet Davies said that the health service could drop “off a cliff-edge” with European Union (EU) nurses — who make up five per cent of Britain’s Nursing and Midwifery Council’s register — deciding to leave the country unless the government reassures workers about their future after Brexit.
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Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is also keen to cut the amount of money spent on agency staff after an investigation by the Daily Mail last year found that some hospitals are paying locum nurses £2,000 for working a single shift.
According to the Telegraph, the health secretary has announced that the government plans to fund 10,000 more nursing places by 2020, replacing bursaries with loans — a source telling the newspaper: “In reality, those will go to domestic applicants, we think.”
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In March, Hunt unveiled plans to increase the supply of doctors trained in the UK so as to reduce the country’s reliance on overseas doctors, under which the NHS will expand the number of medical training places by 1,500 a year.
The plans, which will constitute the largest ever expansion of the NHS workforce — upping the number of junior doctors by one-quarter — and could see doctors made to work in the UK for at least five years after completing their training or else be forced to pay back some of their £230,000 training costs.
“Medicine is still one of the most over-subscribed degrees in the country and we want more British people to do it,” a source close to Mr Hunt told the Telegraph.
In 2012, it was revealed that three-quarters of doctors struck off in the UK were from trained abroad, with foreign doctors five times more likely to be removed or suspended from the medical register than those trained in the UK.