569 UK-trained nurses registered an interest in working in the USA last year
569 UK-trained nurses registered an interest in working in the USA last year

Obamacare reforms could see thousands of NHS nurses poached to work in the US


Charlie Cooper
Tuesday 20 May 2014 07:58

President Obama’s health reforms could result in thousands of nurses leaving the NHS to work across the Atlantic, a senior health official has warned.

The USA is looking to fill a shortfall of some 100,000 nurses and could “come shopping” in the UK, said Professor Ian Cumming, who leads the NHS body responsible for the training and education of health professionals.

Speaking at the first annual conference of Health Education England today, a new NHS body set up in 2012 to provide national leadership for NHS workforce planning, Professor Cumming said that the NHS would be “stuffed” if too many nurses trained in the UK left to plug gaps in the US workforce.

The Obamacare reforms, which have given millions more people access to health insurance, have forced US hospitals to significantly expand their staffing rosters. While only 569 UK-trained nurses registered an interest in working in the USA last year, Professor Cumming said there was a risk that the advent of Obamacare earlier this year would lead to US health firms “coming shopping” in the UK.

“If you’re offered a three-year fixed term contract on a similar salary with the opportunity to do an MA and accommodation provided – and you get to live in New York, San Francisco or Hawaii, or anywhere else you like – if you’re in your 20s and a newly qualified nurse then you might be interested,” he said.

Losing too many nurses could represent “an extraordinary waste of money”, he added, given that it costs between £30,000 and £40,000 to train a nurse in the UK.

He said it was crucial the NHS valued and supported existing nursing staff. Morale is at an all-time low amid nursing staff in the NHS, as a result increasing work pressures and salary increases well behind inflation. A recent survey revealed that more than half had considered quitting their job and large numbers had looked into the possibility of working in Australia or Dubai, where salaries are often significantly higher.

Salaries also tend to be higher in the USA. Dr Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing said: “Nurses who have gone to the US have felt valued and well remunerated, and if the NHS wants to keep them it needs to foster the same feelings.”

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