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Agency Nurses (Developing Countries)

Volume 400: debated on Wednesday 26 February 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) how many agencies, which have recruited nurses from developing countries, have signed the code of practice on international nurses; what steps the Department will take to prevent the use of agencies which have not signed the code of practice; and if he will make a statement; [98391](2) how many private recruitment agencies the NHS used to recruit nurses from developing countries in each of the last five years; [98392]

(3) what estimate he has made of the number of agencies involved in international recruitment of health professionals; and how many have not signed the code of practice; [98917]

(4) what mechanisms are in place to ensure that NHS trusts (a) are aware of the code of practice on international nurses and (b) have received a copy of the Department's list of agencies operating under the terms of the code; and what steps are taken to ensure that trusts use only agencies from the list when recruiting nurses from overseas; [98915]

(5) what mechanisms are in place to ensure that NHS trusts are aware of agencies which do not comply with the code of practice on international nurses, and whether NHS trusts are prevented under legislation from entering into contracts with agencies which (a) have not signed the code of practice and (b) recruit nurses from developing countries. [98914]

[holding answers 24 and 25 February 2003]: Active recruitment from developing countries contravenes the code of practice for national health service employers in the international recruitment of healthcare professionals. If a commercial recruitment agency is alleged to be contravening the code of practice, the Department will carry out an immediate investigation to determine whether that agency should be removed from the list of agencies operating under the terms of the code. Data relating to the number of agencies recruiting nurses from overseas is not held centrally but monitoring is carried out on a quarterly basis. To date, we have not discovered any NHS contravention of the code of practice.The Department has written to all the commercial recruitment agencies it is aware of and has requested references from NHS and other customers confirming the agency's compliance with the code of practice. Details of all agencies working in line with the code of practice appear on the Department's website and is updated regularly. NHS organisations are strongly recommended to refer to the current list of approved agencies when establishing new contracts but there is no legislation requiring them to do so. The list is publicised through regular contacts with the NHS and workforce development confederations.The Department is aware of 115 recruitment agencies and has invited each of them to sign up to the code of practice. To date 68 of them have signed up to list. The Department is continuing to work with the remainder to ascertain their position.