NURSES from overseas are being recruited to join the NHS workforce under a scheme piloted in Liverpool.
Hundreds of nurses who have often fled conflict or persecution abroad to settle in Britain are currently unable to practice, despite being fully qualified in their own countries.
Some of them have come to Liverpool where they are being ‘oriented’ as NHS nurses by Liverpool John Moores University’s School of Nursing and Allied Health in the first scheme of its kind in the country.
Completion of the course, which is the idea of charity RefuAid, places the nurses in line for frontline work with three local NHS employers – Southport & Ormskirk Hospital NHS Trust, St Helen’s & Knowsley Hospitals NHS Trust and the Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital.
'You'll never walk alone'
Mona, a refugee from Sudan (pictured), qualified as a nurse in 2017 but has been unable to work in the UK. She said: “I want to bring all my skills to be a professional nurse in the NHS.
“Before I started this programme at LJMU, I felt homeless, I couldn’t reach my goal but now I can dream about being a nurse in the UK.”
Another recruit who worked in the intensive care unit at Hammoud University Hospital, Lebanon for six years, said he is delighted to be in Liverpool, not least because he loves football.
“We all know ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ and I want to bring that spirit along with my experience to help people with heart and chest illnesses. We are all nurses no matter what our nation is.”
Mona is part of a group of 14 refugees on the course, - four men and 10 women - with participants from Ethiopia, Iran, Philippines, Gambia, Honduras and Myanmar. A second cohort will follow later this year.
The four-week course includes practicals in the LJMU Simulation Suites, which closely mimic a hospital environment, language work and other support to enable the refugees to attain the required registration.
“Our job is to assess their skills are suitable for our NHS, to teach them about nursing in this country and to get them work-ready,” explained Dr Sean Mackay, Associate Dean, Global Engagement in the Faculty of Health at LJMU.
Once approved by the Nursing and Midwifery Council, the students can be employed by the three local hospitals.
Refugees 'an asset'
RefuAid, which has been lobbying government to restrict bureaucracy on the employment status of refugees, says the project “challenges negative rhetoric surrounding refugees” and shows that, given the right support, refugees and asylum seekers can be an asset both economically and culturally to their communities.
A spokesperson said: “We have met so many incredibly determined people who with the right support, have flourished, become fully independent and no longer need to rely on aid or handouts.”
Ruth May, chief nursing officer for England, said:
“I am delighted to welcome these healthcare workers into the NHS, and incredibly proud of the work they have done over recent weeks and months to prepare for the challenge.
“While the NHS will provide a safe and secure place to work, the public and patients will benefit from the skills and expertise these individuals can bring, and I hope this pilot cohort will build the way for hundreds more refugees to become part of our NHS family.”