More than 1,100 international nurses will have been recruited across the Black Country and West Birmingham by the end of 2022, making it the largest ever such recruitment drive in the Midlands.
Organised through The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust (RWT), the campaign recruited more than 600 nurses from abroad in 2021, to work in locations across the Black Country and West Birmingham Integrated Care System (ICS).
The nurses have arrived from countries around the world including the Philippines, South Africa, Brazil, Ghana, Nigeria, Nepal and India.
More than 500 of these are already in work, with the remaining nurses set to arrive over the next three months. Most have been recruited to work for Royal Wolverhampton (292), while 189 are employed at Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust. There are 75 each at Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust and The Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust, and 15 at Black Country Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.
Following the programme’s initial success, an additional 465 nurses are also set to be recruited by the end of this year.
The programme was developed to recruit nurses to help fill growing local demands, and it complements intensive efforts being made across the system to train and recruit more nurses locally.
The initiative is called the Clinical Fellowship Programme (CFP), and it was set up four years ago by Professor Ann-Marie Cannaby, Chief Nurse of RWT and interim Deputy Chief Executive of Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust, and Zoe Marsh, Associate Director of People at RWT.
The programme built on the success of a CFP for doctors that launched in 2016. RWT has already won numerous national awards for the nursing CFP, including Best Inclusion & Equality Practice, Best Recruitment Experience, Best Organisation for Learning and Development and Best UK Employer for Nursing at the Nursing Times Workforce Awards.
To help international nurses settle in, a ‘buddying’ system is in place where each nurse is paired with an international colleague who has been here for six months or more. This is to help support them with such things as our language and cultures, as well as practicalities like accommodation, paying bills, travelling, shopping and schooling for their children.
Zoe Marsh said: “Working collaboratively across Black Country and West Birmingham, all NHS organisations have been fundamental to the success of recruiting international nurses for our collective workforce.
“Our international nursing colleagues bring with them vast nursing experience, that supports us as a health and social care system in providing high quality patient care to the population we serve.”
Professor Ann-Marie Cannaby added: “Our international recruitment campaign will help to fill critical gaps in our staffing, provide career opportunities and improve patient care. There is a national recognition that the NHS has a significant challenge in meeting the demand for registered nurses.
“As such, we have been extremely successful in recruiting nurses internationally into the BCWB NHS system. Not only will this support the NHS in ensuring we have the skilled nursing staff to provide high quality care for our patients, this will also provide career and development opportunities to many overseas staff.”
Cath Wilson, Head of Nurse Education at RWT, has helped put many of the nurses through their professional exams. She said: “It is important we do as much as we can to support and welcome these staff who have chosen to come to this country, support the NHS and build new lives and careers with us.”
Sally Roberts, Chief Nursing Officer for NHS Black Country and West Birmingham Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “The NHS is the largest single employer in the UK, and we are proud that our workforce is extremely diverse – just like our patients.
“The NHS has always benefited from overseas recruitment and from nurses coming from other countries to live and work in England, and it’s fantastic that more than 600 have already been recruited for the Black Country and West Birmingham in the last year.
“The nurses are a fantastic addition to our system, bringing many years of nursing experience which will greatly enhance our services.
“It’s been a truly collaborative effort to deliver this programme of work and I’d like to thank everyone involved.”
As a qualified nurse in South Africa, 31-year-old Beatrix Feldman never thought that one day she’d be working as a nurse for the NHS in the UK, however that dream became a reality in March 2020.
Beatrix is one of hundreds of international nurses that have joined the Clinical Fellowship Programme and is now a Sister at New Cross Hospital in Wolverhampton.
Beatrix said: “I first started nursing when I was 19 years old back home in Johannesburg and found it really fulfilling from day one. I did four years training and then spent another three years doing a second degree in nursing education so that one day I could also teach nursing to others. In my final year of my second degree, a friend of mine mentioned the NHS nursing programme here in the Black Country and West Birmingham and told me I should apply.
“I didn’t think I’d stand a chance of getting in but then I just thought what I have I got to lose, so I applied. After that, it felt like everything happened so fast and I couldn’t believe it when I got accepted on to the programme.
“I moved to Wolverhampton in March 2020 and less than a week later the whole country went into lockdown. Admittedly it was overwhelming to move to a new country, not knowing anyone and with the uncertainty of the pandemic. The first few weeks were a bit of a blur, but the support I had from the management team and other colleagues was amazing and I was made to feel at home straight away.
“For me, from one end of the world to the other, nursing is about providing care and looking after people and that doesn’t change. However, the biggest challenge so far has been getting used to the technology. Everything is far more advanced and up to date than it is back home, but I feel like I’ve learnt so much already.
“My original plan was to come over here for three years and go back to South Africa to use the experience and knowledge I’ve gained. I’ve been here for 19 months now and it’s been a truly life changing experience, and I don’t think I’m going to go back. You can make your home wherever you are, with the right people and community.
“I truly believe that you can learn something new every day as long as you’re open to it, and since arriving here I feel like I’ve grown both personally and professionally, which I think is really special.”