With a shortage of healthcare staff in the UK, overseas-trained professionals play a vital role in the NHS.

According to the General Medical Council, more than a third of the UK’s doctors gained their medical qualification outside Britain, while 2,300 nurses from outside the UK joined the Nursing and Midwifery Council register last year.

The need for international healthcare staff is forecast to increase in coming years: our growing and ageing population needs ever more frequent and acute care, and there are not enough new entrants in to healthcare professions to meet the growing demand.

This is a demographic trend that will continue for decades - one which is stronger than shorter term demands on budgets or drives for efficiency.

The challenge for procurement heads and HR managers in recruiting internationally is to ensure that they identify the right people for the organisation: people with the right skills, the right experience, fluency in English and the character strengths to fit well into your existing team.

This may appear to be a daunting task but there are ten easy steps you can take to ensure a successful recruitment process which achieves positive outcomes:

  1. Outsource. It is more efficient and thereby cost-effective to bring in the experts. Find a recruitment company that has proven experience in international healthcare recruitment.
  2. Be aware. Choose a recruiter that adheres to the Department of Health’s guidelines on ethical international recruitment – only sourcing candidates from countries which can sustain the healthcare needs of its own population first and foremost.
  3. Cover the basics. The agency must provide you with mandatory documentation for each candidate including: all required certification, a passport and proof of right to work in the UK, a valid CRB check, insurance certificates, copies of all qualifications, health clearance and membership of the appropriate professional body.
  4. Seek clinical comparators. Clinical practice differs from culture to culture so always looks for comparatives and equivalents and consider how they would translate to your organisation. Experience is key.
  5. Seek quality. Draw up a list of criteria for the recruitment agency to use when screening staff. If you are recruiting from within the EU, candidates do not have to pass internationally recognised English language tests such as IELTS, but you can still ensure that the recruits are competent in English by setting your own oral and written tests.
  6. Be involved. Interview the agency’s shortlisted candidates yourself, face to face or at least by phone. Don’t leave it all up to the agency. Once all skills and qualifications requirements have been met, you are the one best placed to know who will be a good fit in your organisation.
  7. Ensure a smooth transition for your new starters. Good recruitment agencies will help your new recruits find suitable accommodation near to their new job (if you cannot provide on-site) and integrate into their new communities. You can also help them settle in by organising a ‘soft’ mentorship programme and – if your budget permits, team nights out – this will also help your existing team bond with the new starters more effectively.
  8. Provide a full and detailed clinical induction. Your new recruits need to be confident and acclimatised in order to do their jobs well. This is ultimately the responsibility of the medical director or ward sister. Get your new recruit working in a supervised practice environment for the first few shifts, identify where they are strong and where there is room for improvement. Set objectives and help your staff to achieve them.
  9. Be culturally aware and make the most of your new recruits’ existing skillset, ensure they are thoroughly assessed for new procedures and encourage them to develop new soft skills within a supportive team culture.
  10. Learn from your new recruits. This applies to you and the wider team. Part of the beauty of international recruitment is that it can bring new life to an existing team with the sharing of different ideas for best practice and different perspectives on therapeutic intervention.

International recruitment into the NHS has a long history, and it is forecast to increase as the UK struggles to meet the healthcare needs of its growing and ageing population. Concentrate on achieving a smooth, compliant and sensitive recruitment process that focuses on the individual and you’ll be assured of a great outcome which will benefit you, your team and ultimately - and most importantly, patients.