The International Health Service

Working in healthcare, recruitment and with the NHS over the last 20 years has taught me quite a few things: The pride that healthcare professionals take in their work, the challenges our health service face (especially this year), the need to prioritise patient care, whilst maintaining safe staffing and keep an eye on budgets – these are all very real issues that Trusts and NHS staff deal with every day – and I am proud to be part of it.  

In my current role working at Doctors Direct with NHS Professionals, I see first hand how attracting and retaining doctors to our health service is absolutely critical. Doctors coming into the NHS face these same challenges, but doctors coming from overseas can face even more hurdles to get there. Whether this be different systems, applications, visas, or even an unconscious (and unfair) bias against them, the fact is, we must make it as simple as possible for these valued, qualified professionals to come to the NHS.

The doctor, nurse and healthcare worker shortage in the NHS is well known. Over the last few months, we have seen an incredible response from current and former healthcare professionals who were willing to come back to the NHS and lend their skills. This was fantastic and awe inspiring – thank you! However, now that international access is starting to open up again, many overseas doctors are coming to the UK to start their NHS careers and we should welcome them with open arms. Our Gateway programme, which welcomes doctors from Europe into the NHS is a good example of this. Doctors are coming to the NHS because they see it as a badge of honour – a world renowned system that they want to be a part of.

Looking at the bigger picture, what is clear is that, whenever anyone starts a new role, companies and managers know that it is the welcome and onboarding that is important. Add in the fact that your candidate has travelled thousands of miles to be here, relocating possibly with family, and you have a whole new level of complexity. Working with my fantastic Doctors Direct team and our 20+ partner NHS Trusts, we know how important it is to understand the candidates needs first. Being a success in the NHS isn’t just about qualifications and experience, it’s about cultural fit, asking the right questions and showing empathy and understanding with every conversation at every part of their journey. Demonstrating the right levels of support and guidance to our candidates and in partnership with our clients is essential. Everyone must be on the same page to move forward.

When talking about international recruitment in the NHS, what must be remembered is that these healthcare professionals want to come to the UK because of the fantastic reputation our NHS has garnered. From finding candidates, to their first day and beyond, we must ensure that all those wanting work in the NHS know that there is a full career pathway ahead of them. For me, recruitment in the NHS, has never been just about placements, it’s about professional progression, new practices, pastoral care, clinical pathways and most importantly, people – something we should never forget.

Not only is the NHS world renowned, but since its very foundation, it has been built on a global workforce, at every level. This fantastic diversity and new skills and experiences should be embraced, not treated with scepticism. This year, more than ever, we have been grateful for the work of our NHS Heroes from every walk of life, let’s not forget that our NHS truly is an International Health Service.