Healthcare recruitment in the UK is challenging. A total of 21,000 doctors are scheduled to retire in September 2022, and the current NHS shortfall in staff is estimated at 110,000. The UK healthcare system has long looked overseas to secure talent, with many nurses trained overseas coming to work in the UK. At the same time, conditions for recruiting from abroad have become more challenging due to Brexit and the pandemic.
Achieving success in recruitment for healthcare positions and navigating these challenges requires an in-depth understanding of the current market and a streamlined recruitment process.
The Impact Of Brexit And The Pandemic On International Healthcare Recruitment
Brexit has reshaped the international healthcare recruitment market. In late 2021, the transition period of the UK leaving the European Union had a significant impact on healthcare recruitment. According to The King’s Fund, in early 2021, 13.1% of staff in the National Health Service were of a non-British background, with 5.6% from European Economic Area (EEA) countries and the rest from other countries. These figures had already changed considerably since 2016 when the UK voted to leave the EU in the referendum. Since then, fewer healthcare workers from the EU have migrated to the UK for work.
However, there have been higher numbers of workers from non-EEA arriving in the UK. As of early 2021, both EEA and non-EEA arrivals face the same immigration rules, and a points-based immigration system is in place. The good news is that there is a Health and Care Worker visa for those with a job offer in the NHS, and people entering via this route are fast-tracked.
Also, the pandemic is exacerbating shortages in the UK healthcare system, and it places tremendous pressure on the National Health Service. Research shows that the workforce gap in the NHS could amount to 250,000 by the year 2030, and nursing has been impacted the most. Figures from mid-2021 show that nurse vacancies in England, in particular, rose by 12% in recent months. Since last year, the number of people applying for undergraduate nursing courses has fallen by 8% in the UK. Burnout has also impacted this sector, with many healthcare professionals leaving the field as a direct result of the pandemic.
Tip: If organisations are looking to fill positions with international staff, they need to understand factors such as visa requirements, immigration laws, and specific rules about what recruiters are and are not allowed to ask for during the recruitment and selection process.
The Implications Of Global Britain
There is a need for the recruitment sector to understand the impact of government policy and various sensitivities around overseas recruitment in healthcare.
The UK Government has outlined a Global Britain agenda with key objectives for the country to ensure it remains a world leader in specific areas. One of the major impacts of the Global Britain agenda for healthcare includes the considerably increased spending on healthcare research and ensuring that the NHS can deliver new treatments to service users faster. The aim is to build on the successes in the UK seen in providing life-saving treatments during the pandemic.
Achieving this will require the nation’s ability to recruit and retain the smartest minds in the field. This will likely shape healthcare recruitment in the UK in the months and years ahead, nationally and internationally. However, the UK is not the only country that wishes to lead in this area. There is considerable competition for talent, particularly from countries such as Switzerland and Australia. Demand for healthcare professionals is exceptionally high, and recruiters may struggle to find talent to place in such a competitive environment.
The Impact Of The UK Healthcare Environment On Hiring
Trends in the UK healthcare environment have impacted needs within the sector. For example, healthcare workers have increasingly left the sector for other industries. Figures show that in 2021, 140,000 staff (11%) left the NHS. According to a Nursing and Midwifery Council survey, an increasing percentage of nurses (7.1%) have reported that they are leaving the industry and are no longer working in healthcare. Globally, 48% of the people who’ve quit in the last two years took a new job in a different industry.
Complicating matters, the UK population is living longer, and there is a much greater demand for care. At the same time, the workforce is ageing. There is the potential for a mass exodus of nurses in the next decade, as the time comes for them to retire. The supply of new staff has not kept up with the fast-increasing demand for services, leading to domestic supply issues and a need to continue relying on international supply.
Combatting These Issues
There is no doubt that these are challenging times for healthcare recruitment, but steps can be taken to combat the issues.
Organizations should understand what incentives and benefits candidates seek in the healthcare industry to remain competitive. Some candidates might be interested in benefits such as paid sick time, vacation, and health insurance. Other candidates might be interested in career advancement, different career paths, work/life balance, a job that contributes to society, or working with some of the most groundbreaking technologies and treatments globally – like Global Britain. Once companies know what their audience or top talent is seeking when looking for employment, they should work on their EVP and employer branding to ensure they're showcasing this to candidates. This will help emphasize what makes companies unique compared to others in the sector.
Next, companies must work on their hiring process and build streamlined ways to help combat challenges. Virtual recruiting is set to continue following the pandemic, and organisations can benefit significantly from this. Being fast and efficient while pinpointing the best talent will have a beneficial impact on prospective employees. Utilising well-established recruitment platforms can assist with this, but also identifying ways to optimise the entire recruitment process will contribute to a greater likelihood of securing key talent. Also, investing in new technology to help automate the hiring process can speed up the time to hire. It's essential to accelerate the hiring process and find technology that makes it as easy as possible for candidates to apply for positions.
Identifying alternative strategies for reaching candidates will also likely be a great help. Examples may include strategies like refer-a-friend and partnering with medical or nursing schools. By exploring different sourcing strategies, companies can identify potential candidates in new audiences and find a new candidate pipeline to tap into.
Tip: Companies who work to ensure their hiring process is as streamlined as it can be are more likely to provide a positive candidate experience and can serve to attract top talent.
Healthcare recruitment challenges are sizeable in the UK, but not insurmountable. While Brexit and the pandemic have significantly impacted the healthcare workforce at home and abroad, there are positives in the sector, such as the impact of the Global Britain agenda.
Finding and retaining talent will continue to be a challenge into the future, so recruitment teams must be prepared by streamlining the recruitment process, adapting strategies, and focusing on the employer brand. It's about remaining competitive: offering more money, benefits that align with the candidates, building a solid EVP, etc.