Letter: Nursing grievances (2)

May 18, 2001

One of the main reasons the UK has a shortage of qualified nurses was the Conservative government-induced reduction in the number of nurse training places in the early 1990s. To redress the shortage this created, many NHS trusts are now having to recruit qualified nurses from overseas.

It is against this background that Labour is set to abolish the system of offering bursaries and tuition support to prospective nursing students resident outside the European Union. The reason for this change in policy, as stated in your report, is the concern that taxpayers' money might be spent on overseas students who are not planning to work in the UK.

We do not know how many of these overseas students stay in the UK to work as qualified nurses. Even if all or most do return to their own country on completion of their training, that should not be a reason for abolishing their eligibility for a bursary. If Labour is prepared to condone the depletion of the qualified nursing resource of less developed countries, then it has an obligation to help to replenish that resource. To do otherwise is morally reprehensible.

What price an ethical foreign policy now?

Claire Hale
Professor of clinical nursing
University of Leeds

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