SIX hundred nurses have been attracted to work in Devon from overseas in the last 15 months. According to an NHS spokesperson this is ‘helping to fill frontline posts and saving the NHS around £3 million in agency and bank costs.

‘The Devon International Recruitment Alliance works collaboratively across the county’s NHS hospital trusts to attract staff; rather than trusts competing with one another abroad.

‘They have developed a recognised and trusted presence online and on social media, which attracts many direct applicants from other countries.

‘As a result, Devon has been able to reduce its need to use third party agents to help recruit from other countries; making the programme even more cost effective.

Among those who’ve come to Devon is Moses Mukama, a nurse at the Royal Devon University Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust’s South Molton Hospital.

He said: ‘Recruitment here was fantastic. It was quick, I did the interviews in August and by October I was here. ‘I come from Zimbabwe and right from the start, I’ve been learning new things and I have maximum support at the workplace.

‘I would say to any other candidates looking to work in the UK to start with Devon because everyone is so supportive – they are conscious of culture and ethnicity, and everyone is accepting.

‘It’s a nice place to live, I’ve learnt a lot in terms of patient care and I’m really enjoying the work.’

Fellow nurse Joe Chacko, who arrived from India, said: ‘Working in Devon as a Registered Nurse is the best decision that I took in my life. I feel happy with the pastoral support I received. I am extremely lucky to have an awesome ward sister and good helping colleagues.’

The programme has been so successful that the team are now branching into other areas where recruiting health and care professionals has been particularly challenging, including radiographers, podiatrists, occupational therapists and care workers for social care.

Tracey Collins, Devon’s International Nursing & Workforce Lead, said: ‘The past 15 months has been incredible in terms of establishing and implementing a collaborative approach to international recruitment in Devon.

‘I’m delighted to be welcoming our 600th nurse to Devon, having made a significant impact on the reduction in vacancies within the NHS. This supports our existing staff and of course our patients.

‘I look forward to soon also welcoming people from other health and care professions.’

Lucy Muchina, Royal College of Nursing South West Director said: ‘It is great news that Devon is so successful in attracting registered nurses into the county. ‘These nurses are desperately needed as vacancies rise and UK universities continue to be unable to produce enough newly qualified nurses.

‘Particularly important is the pastoral care Devon is providing for these nurses, new to the UK, to ensure that they are rewarded with a sense of belonging and feel their future, on a personal and career level, is here longer term.

‘As an internationally educated nurse, I can attest to the benefits of pastoral care in ensuring retention of nurses in the workforce.’

Darryn Allcorn, NHS Devon’s chief nursing officer, said: ‘This programme is having a huge impact on Devon, at a time when recruiting home-grown nurses remains challenging.

‘Having attracted our nurses here, we want them to stay. We are developing a local educational programme to support their career development and help them settle. Those skills would also be of use in their homecountries if they choose to return in future.

‘Devon follows an ethical code of practice and only accepts applications from nurses and health professionals in so called ‘green list’ countries to ensure that we don’t impact on the health systems of other countries.’

Nurses have been recruited to work in physical and mental health roles in Devon. Potential recruits must pass an English language test set by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) before being selected for interview.

They also have to pass the first stage of an NMC competence test to acquire a visa. On arrival nurses have further training and must take a practical test before they can practice as a Registered Nurse in the UK. The NHS spokesperson added: ‘The Devon team also pride themselves on offering great pastoral support to recruits; ensuring they have plenty of opportunity to learn about life as a nurse in Devon, discuss any concerns and meet other recruits online before they travel.

‘They are provided with accommodation for the first few months and have additional pastoral support to help them settle in and address any additional needs.’