Low take-up of nursing posts by new EU states

Despite claims that workers from new accession (NA) countries would flood
the UK
workforce, just a handful of nursing staff from these states have registered to
work in the UK
since EU enlargement in May.

According to the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), only 17 nursing staff
from NA countries registered to work in the UK
between May and July. Around 382 applicants from NA countries applied to join
the NMC register in the same period.

This compares with 600 applications made to US hospitals in the state of Georgia
alone by Polish nurses earlier this year, according to Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza. It said the US
$22 (about £17) per hour salary "is the best offer on the Polish
market".

Registration of nurses from NA countries is being delayed as qualifications
held by staff wanting to join the NMC register are not accorded the automatic
recognition stipulated by various EU directives, a council spokesman said. He
added that it will be three years before nursing qualifications from NA
countries in Eastern Europe will enjoy similar status to
those of other EU countries.

"Until then, each application for registration is considered on its
merits, and is dealt with on a case-by-case basis," said the spokesman.
"We ask for proof of qualifications, proof of registration in applicants’
home countries, and a signed statement of good health and character."

Successful applicants receive a ‘statement of entry’, which states the
requirements they have met, and includes a PIN card with a key ID number. These
are essential to get a nursing or midwifery job in the UK.

Eastern Europeans must also register with the Home Office’s Worker
Registration Scheme. The latest Home Office figures show that just over 8,000
NA state applicants had arrived and registered by June 2004, along with 14,400
who were already resident before 1 May.

This figure includes around 200 NA state doctors who have registered with
the General Medical Council since May this year.

The Department of Health said the latest vacancy rate for GPs (March 2004)
was 3 per cent, compared with 3.4 per cent in 2003, and that there were 7,508
nursing vacancies in England – a rate of 2.6 per cent.

In Scotland,
there are more than 2,000 nursing vacancies, according to the Royal College of
Nursing.

By John Charlton

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