Survey finds more nurses choosing to work abroad

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The Independent Online
HEALTH service managers face a growing skill shortage as a net outflow of nurses from Britain increases, according to a report published today, writes Barrie Clement.

A study of 4,000 nurses in the UK showed that nearly one in five was seriously considering working abroad. The number emigrating has increased by 174 per cent, to more than 8,600 since 1984/85, researchers found.

Most worrying for British hospitals is that a large proportion of those considering going overseas specialise in coronary care, surgery, paediatrics, accident and emergency, orthopaedics and care of the mentally handicapped.

The study, published by the Institute of Manpower Studies, warns that future migration of nurses could make shortages worse in these critical areas.

The most popular destinations are to English-speaking areas such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States.

Despite the removal of barriers to mobility, migration to EC countries has been a much less popular option and it still seems that inability to speak Continental languages is one of the main barriers. Just 18 per cent of nurses claimed to have a working knowledge of a foreign language.

The main influx of nurses into Britain was from the 'New Commonwealth', with Nigeria the largest source, accounting for around one in five of the work permits issued. However, fewer than 5 per cent of the Nigerians attempting to register under the United Kingdom Central Council for Nursing, were successful the first time they applied. More than a third of applicants from Australia, New Zealand and the US, met the professional standards dictated by it.

British nurses with the greatest inclination to go abroad are in the Thames regions - nearly a third are considering working overseas.

The International Mobility of Nurses; A UK Perspective; IMS Report No 230; Institute of Manpower Studies, Mantell Building, Sussex University, Falmer, Brighton, East Sussex, BN1 9RF.