As NHS recruitment teams begin to survey the damage caused by Covid-19 to their clinical talent pools, many are preoccupied with the task at hand to even consider what might be coming next – Winter 2020-21.

The NHS has faced a tsunami of workforce challenges including absenteeism, child care cover, pay protections, redeployments and recruiting hundreds of temporary clinical staff including both GMC and NMC returners as well as final year medical, nursing and allied health students.

Over recent weeks some NHS Trusts have held their first recruitment and retention meeting since early March and they are under no illusion that they are facing a mammoth recruitment challenge.

Pre-Covid nursing shortages in the NHS exceeded 40,000 and it may be some time before the current number of nursing vacancies is known.

What is known is that the additional nursing cover provided by the independent hospitals won’t remain forever and that the NMC temporary returners will fall off gradually as will the nursing students.

Many NHS Trusts are now finding that between Brexit and Covid-19, they are caught in the midst of the perfect recruitment storm.

Many NHS Trusts need to start recruiting now for the Winter, but are not sure where to even start.

We all know the impact Brexit has had on the supply of European nurses into the NHS, but with the long awaited “NHS Visa” launched on 4 August, just where will the Non-EU/EEA nurses come from?

In the short to medium term, it is hard to see the likes of India or the Philippines delivering the nursing supply that the NHS needs given that India has reported 1.8m cases and 39,000 deaths becoming the third worst affected country in the world; while the Philippines has surged past 100,000 cases in early August, the second highest in Southeast Asia after Indonesia.

More worryingly for the NHS is that the Government in the Philippines has placed a ban on nurses leaving for jobs overseas and while nurses with signed contracts as of 8 March 2020 are allowed to leave, the ban will severally disrupt overseas nursing supply into the UK in the short to medium term.

Despite the disruption in two of the UK’s largest overseas nursing supply markets, there is some good news for NHS Trusts.

Firstly, the new UK Health and Care Visa promises cheaper and faster processing times for overseas doctors and nurses, but more significantly, it tells the global health community that the NHS is serious about attracting the best global healthcare talent.

Secondly, the UK’s coveted universal health system and the high profile support frontline health workers received during the lockdown period ‘clap for the NHS’ has surprisingly helped the NHS’ employer brand perform extremely well internationally.

What all this means for the NHS is that recruiting overseas will be much easier and cheaper for NHS Trusts in the future.

What can NHS recruitment teams do now?

Having endured a tsunami of issues over the past 5 months and worked relentlessly to put teams in place to meet the first surge, overseas recruitment takes time and the work has to begin now for the future.

One of the few positives of Covid-19 for the NHS is the easing of global competition, especially from the US having reported in April that 1.4m healthcare professionals had registered for unemployment benefit, but how do you source more candidates?

With many of the traditional source channels such as job fairs and open days temporarily postponed for now, many Trusts are turning to virtual job fairs, which are nothing more than glorified job boards with a complete mismatch between employers and candidates being online at the same time.

However, not all job fairs have disappeared, Healthcare, the Medical, Nursing and Health Careers Expo in Dublin is still scheduled to go ahead in October subject to restrictions being relaxed in Ireland and is offering remote exhibitor packages for those that cannot exhibit.

For those NHS employers looking to stabilise and grow their nursing workforce through international recruitment, British Nursing, the established and trusted brand for employer-led direct recruitment in overseas markets, is launching a collaborative international nurse recruitment advertising campaign exclusively for UK employers.

At HST, we operate across three business divisions including recruitment advertising, recruitment events and recruitment services.