Unfortunately for Jeremy Hunt, these figures accompany the embarrassing and damaging estimate by the Royal College of Nursing that 80,000 applicants per year are turned away by HEIs due to a lack of available places. This revelation naturally reignited the usual diatribe against ‘foreign’ nurses, who undercut UK staff with lower salaries and, it is dubiously alleged, lower standards of care. October 2014 saw the NMC’s introduction of new assessment procedures for nurses and midwives who trained outside the EU – a laudable improvement to the registration process, but a step which will have little to no impact on the core issue of too few UK-trained nurses joining the ranks.
Professor Jane Ball, speaking to the Nursing Times in December 2014, described the intake of overseas-trained nurses as a post-Francis “band aid” for the wound of chronic under-staffing, adding that it was “a short-term stop-gap and so inefficient”. She and others like her have spoken out time and time again about the direct impact of under-staffing on patient care, and yet the NHS’ short-term solution of filling wards with nurses unaccustomed to UK standards hardly qualifies as a successful resolution of the crisis.
Equally, the debate needs a hefty dose of sensible perspective to counter the cries of the right-wing press. The Chief Executive of NHS Employers sagely observed that this year’s overseas intake accounts for just 2% of the NHS workforce overall. There is little doubt that the press reaction to the release of the figures will create something of a headache for NHS workforce planning, and the role of the practice education community is yet to be defined. In a world where Trusts are lambasted for interviewing unqualified Healthcare professionals via Skype and accused of ‘raiding’ EU nursing stocks, where does this leave HEIs?
Here at Oxinet, we know from our work with our PEMS customers that the UK’s HEIs are hugely successful in providing high quality education for student nurses. Robust improvements to student and patient safeguarding in response to the Francis inquiry along with an investment in practice education management procedures have led to nursing courses proving more popular than ever before; the sector as a whole has seen a close to 25% rise in the number of nursing applicants. However, HEIs are at the mercy of Health Education England and its composite Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) – the new alternative to Strategic Health Authorities as of April 2013 – and Local Education and Training Boards (LETBs). Responsibility for education commissioning has been devolved to these groups, and now the perpetrators of what Peter Carter calls ‘lamentable workforce planning’ are being held to account. Indeed, the document at the heart of the uproar sheepishly admits that ‘we inherently observe potential issues with supply [of nurses] in the shorter term’.
In spite of this, the proverb ‘credit where credit’s due’ holds true. In the self-same document, HEE announces a 9% increase in nurse education commissions on the 2013/14 figure; a positive step forward. In order to facilitate this increase in commissions without accumulating added costs, and while safeguarding patient welfare, HEIs need to adopt robust processes and identify technology solutions which can cope with the complexity of Healthcare placement management.
The PEMS Solution
PEMS is a tool designed by Oxinet with Healthcare professionals for Healthcare professionals and makes placement education management simple.
By bringing together all parts of the process into one accessible online tool, HEI staff, placement providers, students and mentors can access PEMS on any modern browser, all they need is an internet enabled device such as a PC, tablet or smartphone. Placement allocation, auditing, reporting, student and organisational information is all available at the click of a button – or tap on a screen if you are using a smart device! PEMS is offered on a subscription basis, so HEIs can rest assured that there are no large up-front costs, and rates are fixed over 1, 2 or 3 years so they can easily forecast and manage budgets.
 Peter Carter, Astonishing over-reliance on overseas nurses. Royal College of Nursing, 17 December 2014
 Alex Turnbull, NMC changes registration process for overseas nurses. Independent Nurse, 2 September 2014
 Shaun Lintern, Exclusive: NHS nurse staffing crisis fuels global recruitment. Nursing Times, 17 December 2014
 “Colchester Hospital Skype interview radiographer suspended”. BBC News, 14 June 2013
 Steve Ford, Most hospital trusts have raided EU for nurses in past four years. Nursing Times, 19 September 2014
 James Buchan and Ian Seccombe, Overstretched. Under-resourced. The UK nursing labour market. RCN, July 2012
 Ian Cumming and Keith Pearson, Workforce Plan for England: Proposed Education and Training Commissions for 2014/15. 17 December 2014