UK health service looks to expand workforce partnership with Kerala

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London: Representatives from the UK's National Health Service (NHS) and regional partners said on Monday that they are planning a visit to India this month to explore "sustainable routes” for workforce recruitments from Kerala, the biggest supplier of nursing graduates to the UK.

Health Education England (HEE), part of the NHS and in charge of recruiting and training the taxpayer-funded service's workforce, is working with the West Yorkshire Integrated Care System (WYICS) to develop "workforce relationships" in India for the northern England region.

A WYICS team will hold meetings with ministers in Kerala in collaboration with the Overseas Development and Employment Promotion Consultants (ODEPC), a Thiruvananthapuram-based state government undertaking, and Kerala's Skills Council.

“HEE continues to work on developing relationships in India for doctors, nurses and other health professionals as part of our mandate to support the growth of the NHS workforce,” HEE said in a statement.

“The purpose [of the Kerala focus] is to support a new ethical pathway for international healthcare staff to come into the West Yorkshire area to help increase staff numbers… Kerala continues to be the single biggest supplier of international nursing graduates to the NHS, and HEE, is keen to maintain this relationship and ensure that there is mutual benefit to the people of Kerala as healthcare staff will return with enhanced knowledge, skills and training,” it said.

WYICS said the India visit of five of their representatives aims to tap into professional opportunities across the health and social care sectors, both of which need qualified staff in the UK.

“They are visiting because they [Kerala] have qualified health professionals available to work within the UK at no detriment to their own local recruitment programmes," the regional healthcare body said.

"The aim is to establish ethical, cost-effective and sustainable routes for clinical professionals into West Yorkshire and to understand the opportunities available to broaden this to care staff,” it added.

A parliamentary committee of cross-party British MPs had warned last year that the UK's NHS and social care sector face the greatest workforce crisis in their history, as the latest statistics from 2022 show that Indians, at nearly 45,000, make up the largest overseas nationality represented in the NHS workforce after British medics.

The UK government says it plans a long-term workplace strategy to address the healthcare staffing issues against the backdrop of nursing and ambulance worker strikes over better pay and working conditions.

“International recruitment is only one part of our plans to grow the NHS workforce, and the supply of homegrown staff is increasing with record numbers of doctors and nurses. We will publish a long-term workforce plan this year focused on recruiting and retaining more staff,” a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said.


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