HC Deb 04 November 2003 vol 412 cc665-6
11. Dr. Phyllis Starkey (Milton Keynes, South-West)

What proportion of nurses working in the NHS have been internationally recruited. [135979]

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Ms Rosie Winterton)

As at September 2002, the number of nurses employed by the NHS was 367,520. In the years 1999 to 2002, 33,000 non-European Community nurses registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council. However, not all of those nurses will currently be working in the NHS.

Dr. Starkey

I welcome the fact that the NHS has a code of conduct about recruiting nurses from countries where recruitment would otherwise affect health services in those countries. The private sector in hospitals, nursing homes and care homes, however, does not exercise similar restraint. I ask the Minister to look carefully at ways in which the private sector can be made to adhere to the same code of conduct, and if necessary to have discussions with colleagues in the Home Office to ensure that the private sector in this country is not pillaging health services abroad in countries where those health staff are needed much more than here.

Ms Winterton

My hon. Friend is right to raise this issue, which we take very seriously, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has had a number of discussions about it. There is a limit to the control that we can exert on the private sector, but we have made it absolutely clear that agencies that recruit nurses for the private sector contrary to the NHS code of conduct will not be allowed to recruit nurses for the national health service. That lever is available to us. In addition, some measures can be taken by the Department of Trade and Industry if, for example, agencies charge an exorbitant fee to nurses for recruitment. Our Departments are continuing to work closely on that matter.