• New international recruitment “toolkit” calls on trusts to partner with other successful organisations to boost overseas staff numbers
  • Warns international recruitment is important in short and medium term but not “quick fix” for shortages in long term
  • Sets out examples of good practice across NHS

Trusts have been told to collaborate with others to increase the “efficiency and scale” of international recruitment, in new national guidance shared with HSJ.

A “toolkit”, commissioned by the Department of Health and Social Care and produced by NHS Employers along with NHS England, sets out good practice for planning and implementing ethical international recruitment, while stressing it is “not a quick fix to supply challenges”.

“Integrated care systems… will have a bigger role in leading collaborative action to address workforce challenges across their local organisations, which will require them to work together as a system,” says the document, due to be published today.

It encourages trusts to use a “lead recruiter” or “hub” model, which it said would lead to better recruitment “pipelines” and increase retention of staff who come.

The toolkit gives the example of Yeovil District Hospital Foundation Trust which — it says — managed to redesign its processes and improve results, and has since acted as a “lead recruiter” for nine other trusts, including North Bristol Trust.

Yeovil developed a retention programme and redesigned its clinical assessment programme, and has reduced its agency nursing spend from about around £250,000 a month to £33,000, according to the document.

However, the guidance adds: “Before participating in a system approach, it is important to consider what your organisation is looking for in a collaboration. Determine the level of commitment required, your capacity to act in new ways and assess your organisation’s internal tolerances for collaboration and risk.”

The document highlights recruiting permanent staff from overseas can be a lot cheaper than relying on agency staff, especially over several years.

The interim people plan published last summer by NHS England and Improvement underlined the need for an increase in international recruits in the short-to-medium term, but did not set out any specific targets for this.

People plan modelling from the autumn, leaked to HSJ, featured international recruitment as the biggest lever to boost NHS nursing staff numbers, adding 12,500 over five years.

Support from the centre

The new guidance says NHS England and NHS Improvement have established a central international recruitment team to “support” the process, and notes they are working to update frameworks for international recruitment service providers, with these due to go live in April.

“The updated frameworks will ensure trusts can be confident that they are procuring international recruitment providers that are recruiting and supplying ethically,” it said.

Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, said: “This recruitment must be thoughtful and ethical, and these vital colleagues can need particular support as they adjust to new working environments and requirements.

“We continue to make the case for targeted government support for the recruitment of social care and health workers in the planned new points-based immigration system.”

Health minister Edward Argar said: “As one of the largest employers in the world it’s vital the NHS adheres to the highest standards, recruiting in the most effective and ethical way, and delivering the best value for taxpayers.”

Ged Byrne, director of global engagement at Health Education England, said: “The development of this toolkit is both timely and of the highest quality. It will help employers recognise the benefits of global engagement, ensuring the quantity and quality of their workforce, via the addition of high quality international graduates, sourced through ethical recruitment.”