The labour shortage at care homes in England could be alleviated by a recruitment drive in Asia, under fresh plans outlined by health secretary Steve Barclay.
Under the proposals, NHS managers would be sent to countries such as the Philippines, India and Malaysia to hire nurses and other workers.
According to a report in the Times, Barclay was also exploring the possibility of relaxing qualifications requirements to ensure the recruitment drive had rapid effect.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “Our new international recruitment taskforce is considering innovative ways to boost staffing numbers within health and adult social care.
“As part of this, we will work with the sector and recruitment experts to examine how to recruit staff from overseas more effectively into adult social care.”
However, figures from NHS Digital show the share of healthcare staff recruited from overseas almost doubled between 2014 and 2021. This led to Danny Mortimer, the chief executive of NHS Employers, calling for urgent action from ministers to tackle “chronic staff shortages in the longer term”.
“While there is also a focus on growing and retaining the domestic workforce, we can’t escape the fact that there are 105,000 vacancies in the NHS and 165,000 vacancies in social care. We are in need of urgent action and the new prime minister must commit to publishing a fully costed and funded workforce plan to tackle chronic staff shortages in the longer term.”
Others have joined Mortimer in calling for action to recruit more staff. Dr Kitty Mohan, the chair of the international committee at the British Medical Society, said: “The simple fact is that we do not have enough doctors, nurses and other healthcare staff to meet the growing and increasingly complex healthcare needs of our population.”
In February 2022, the government announced that social care worker, care assistant and home care worker roles were to be included on the Shortage Occupation List. These roles have also become eligible for the Health and Care Worker visa for 12 months.
This came after the Migrant Advisory Committee, the government’s independent adviser on immigration issues, said that care worker jobs should “immediately” be made eligible for the Health and Care Visa and placed on the shortage occupation list because of the “severe and increasing difficulties the sector is facing in terms of both recruitment and retention”.