Overseas nurses play a vital role in the health of the nation.

Research carried out by the University of Northampton has found that racism and discrimination in the NHS continues to prevent overseas nurses from using their skills to their full potential despite them playing a vital role in the health service.

According to the October issue of the Journal of Clinical Nursing many overseas nurses have negative experiences of working in the UK NHS, experiences which include feeling undervalued by their colleagues and prevented from using their expertise and skills because of a lack of respect.

According to Medical News Today (15 October, 2010) “Since 1997 approximately 100,000 international nurses from 50 countries have obtained UK registration, with the largest numbers coming from the Philippines, India, South Africa and Australia. However, the Nursing and Midwifery Council reports that almost a fifth of the nurses who joined the register between 1997 and 2006 did not renew their registration.”

Without overseas nurses the British National Service would grind to a standstill and few people are aware of this. Senior lecturer and nurse Julia Nichols said, “If overseas nurses chose to leave the UK in large numbers, health services could face a severe staffing shortage.”

Despite this fact however, overseas nurses continue to face racism and discrimination from colleagues and the NHS in general.

The research carried out by Senior lecturer and nurse Julia Nichols and Professor of Neurophysiology Jackie Campbell, carried out interviews with nearly 4000 overseas nurses.

It was found that overseas nurses who were highly skilled were kept in junior positions and their skills unused, many in fact chose to hide their skills for fear of creating animosity among the less skilled staff.

The NHS is also accused of institutional racism, preventing overseas nurses from career progression and many reported feeling degraded and being shown a lack of respect from colleagues.

Overseas nurses have played a vital role in the NHS while white British-born health staff are taking lucrative posts overseas in countries like Australia, New Zealand, U.S. and Canada. They deserve the respect of their colleagues and the British people.

According to an article by Gaby Hinsliff and Kate Connolly on the Guardian website, on Sunday, April 21 2002, “Nurses lured from overseas to plug gaps in the NHS are being underpaid” and “exploited”.

Foreign nurses are being exploited by the NHS to perform low-paid menial work that no other British worker will do. They are the staff  that keep the NHS on its feet and maintain a standard of health in the British population. They look after the elderly and ensure that Britain still has a national health service.

The racial barriers which are preventing overseas nurses from progressing in the NHS could result in a staff shortage crises if these nurses decide to take their skills where they will be appreciated and rewarded.

The results of the research in this report will come as no surprise to overseas nurses and if nothing is done very soon to address the racism in the NHS it could be a major blow to the future of this service.

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