Written evidence submitted by Gamu Nyasoro, Kettering General Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (RTR0144)
Thank you for your response and for inviting me to contribute to your inquiry. I was glad to be able to represent the views of my fellow nurses and hope that you and your colleagues act upon the concerns which I raised.
In addition to the priorities, I testified to during my appearance there are some additional points which I believe your inquiry needs to take account of, and I welcome the opportunity to explain these further.
Pay, career progression and safe staffing
I mentioned nurses’ pay in my appearance but I believe this needs to be repeated. My pay and that of my NHS colleagues has been restrained now for 12 years, over which time its value has fallen in real terms.
We have shown exemplary performance to cope with rising demand and the pandemic during that time and so many of my colleagues are disheartened that they will not see their pay keep up with their bills. I think that protecting and growing the NHS workforce will only be possible if we urgently begin to see our pay improve ahead of inflation. To be frank and honest, the NHS is run on goodwill, and I feel this is running out.
It is also so important that nurses and all NHS staff have the funding and the opportunity to develop their knowledge and progress their careers. Many I know have not been able to do so because there is so much demand that they cannot get the time off as they get called back from study days to cover rota gaps or access the funding they need. As nurses we do not have a meaningful budget on post registration study than the medical staff or have protected study time.
Finally, on the situation facing all nurses, I must warn you and your colleagues about safe staffing. I told you at the committee that we’re always working without enough nurses and this situation keeps getting worse and worse. Surveys and evidence from my union show that many staff can’t give the care they want or protect their patients’ safety because they are working with unsafe staffing levels. Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will all soon have law to address this crisis, but England keeps refusing to do so. There must be a law introduced to ensure nurse staffing is made a fundamental duty.
As I told the committee, I am originally from Zimbabwe and like many tens of thousands of other nurses have come from overseas to work in the NHS. As a union steward, I am well connected to many colleagues and friends from overseas and I often hear shocking stories about the ways they are being treated.
One issue I raised in my appearance was how unfair contracts are being used to intimidate nurses from overseas and trap them with exploitative employers.
Nurses are having their wages taken from them unfairly and are being presented with bills they have to pay back, sometimes for more than £10,000, for their own recruitment and training costs if they want to leave their job. This means they often conclude they cannot risk leaving and are left at the mercy of racism and exploitation. Majority of the times they are not leaving the UK but just changing employers.
This is against the UK’s code of practice on ethical international recruitment, but because the code is not legally enforceable no action can be taken against these employers. As a matter of urgency the Department of Health and Social Care should take action to make sure this code can be properly enforced.
The UK is recruiting many more thousands of nurses from overseas but many of them are still affected by the Government’s hostile policies towards immigrants. Some of my nursing colleagues are still affected by the unfair immigration health surcharge. Because there is ‘no recourse to public funds’ for migrants, my nursing colleagues from overseas are unfairly treated. During the pandemic many low paid NHS staff struggled to feed their families when they had to self-isolate because of this.
Those that are recruited into the NHS often also face particular problems for which there isn’t enough support.
Some nurses from overseas who have become pregnant during their recruitment process are not aware that they are not entitled to full maternity pay and support (or even statutory maternity pay). And employers are at times not treating them fairly even though they know that that nurse won’t have anyone to assist them. I am aware of a colleague who was sacked by a private healthcare employer and who was forced to survive on her limited savings and handouts during the first few months with her new child. The Government and NHS must make sure maternity pay and support is available to any nurses newly recruited from overseas especially within their first year of employment.
Finally, as a proud nurse from Zimbabwe I am concerned that not enough is being done to support the countries from which we are recruiting so many nurses. There has been a story by the BBC in recent days about the shortages of health workers in Zimbabwe which are being made worse by recruitment to the UK. The Government’s decision to undermine our commitments and support to other nations by slashing aid funding last year came while we are recruiting tens of thousands of nurses from other countries. This must be reversed, and mutually beneficial partnerships be set up with source countries, with adequate funding to sustain these.
I believe the issue of ethical international recruitment is really concerning and needs to be properly examined by your Committee and by Parliament. The UK is one of the biggest recruiting countries in the world and needs to be a leader in doing this ethically. I would welcome the chance to speak to your Committee at more length about this issue and I am sure we could find other nurses and internationally recruited staff who would be happy to contribute.
Lastly, I have been a citizen of the UK since 2003 and have never worked anywhere else except the NHS as I felt that I needed to give back to the Organisation that trained me and gave me a bursary to live on. I am British after naturalising but all these years despite me graduating, getting married, a toddler who had major surgeries, divorce and major depression I have failed even once to get a successful Visit Visa for my parents to see where I have settled or celebrate some of my achievement or help me out with much needed childcare. I have 6 other siblings and 3 of us are nurses, 3 are trainers and support workers in the social care sector and 1 is bus driver, all of us essential workers and all citizens. We have been told multiple times that m parents won’t have anything to go back to Zimbabwe for therefore are denied entry to visit us their children despite multiple evidence of their ties to Zimbabwe. Is that fair?
And the above will become a reality for majority they are enticed and recruited into the jobs in this country.
Thank you for your time and that of the Committee, giving me a voice.
(Registered General Nurse)