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Omicron: NMC takes action to address nursing workforce gaps

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Author: GEMMA MITCHELL

The Nursing and Midwifery Council has reopened its emergency Covid-19 register to internationally trained nurses, in light of the “increasingly severe pressures” being caused by the Omicron wave.

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Employers can now nominate overseas recruits in their workplaces who are on the pathway to NMC registration, to join the temporary register.

“Reopening the temporary register to internationally trained nurses is an immediate step we can take to help”

Andrea Sutcliffe

The NMC launched the emergency register in March 2020 to urgently expand the workforce available to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

The register was initially open to former nurses and midwives who had voluntarily left their professions in recent years, but was later expanded to overseas-trained nurses in the UK.

In July the regulator closed the temporary register to new international candidates, however it has now made the decision to reopen it to this group.

The move by the NMC comes as health and care services struggle with rising numbers of staff going off sick or needing to isolate, as the Omicron variant spreads rapidly across the UK.

Latest official data from NHS England shows Covid-19-related staff absences have been steadily rising since the end of the November.

On 29 November, NHS trusts in England were recording 11,375 such absences but by 17 December the figure had peaked at 19,589.

As of 19 December, the most recent figure available, 18,829 NHS staff members with Covid-19 were off work due to sickness or needing to isolate.

Meanwhile, latest government data shows there were 8,216 people across the UK in hospital with Covid-19 as of 22 December, and at the same time staff are working to meet ambitions booster vaccination targets.

The absences come on top of pre-existing nursing shortages, with NHS Digital statistics showing 39,813 nurse vacancies across England in the second quarter of 2021-22.

Andrea Sutcliffe, NMC chief executive and registrar, said: “Nursing and midwifery professionals continue to do amazing things to care for people during the pandemic.

“But we know Omicron is putting people and services under increasingly severe pressure. Reopening the temporary register to internationally trained nurses is an immediate step we can take to help.”

Andrea Sutcliffe

The NMC said that, in order for an internationally trained nurse to join the temporary register, employers needed to provide assurance that the person was “fit, proper and suitably experienced to work in the emergency”.

Details about the nomination process have been sent to directors of nursing in a joint letter from Ms Sutcliffe and chief nursing officer for England, Ruth May.

The regulator added that it was also continuing to “encourage” health and care services to employ nursing and midwifery professionals who were already on the temporary register.

A snapshot survey conducted by the NMC in August 2021 with people on the emergency register suggested more than quarter (29%) had not yet been given an offer of employment or started practising.

Source: https://www.nursingtimes.net/news/workforce/omicron-nmc-takes-action-to-address-nursing-workforce-gaps-24-12-2021/

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