RefuAid is paving the way for future nursing within NHS

RefuAid has teamed up with NHS England & Improvement (NHSEI), and Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) to create a programme for nurses from a refugee background to return to practice in the UK.

The pilot cohort of fourteen nurses ran for four weeks in February 2021 and resulted in all of the cohort finding employment in the NHS or beginning further training. The second cohort of twenty nurses is due to begin at the end of April. Early signs are that the programme is extremely effective, and we are hoping that it can be scaled up to provide support to more nurses with refugee status across the UK, whilst also easing some of the chronic nursing staff shortages faced by the NHS.

The programme is simple in its design, but is highly practical in linking language provision, training, mentoring and employment support in a way that remedies many of the barriers faced by refugee healthcare professionals when trying to return to practice. Participants attend a four-week residential programme based in Liverpool, consisting of face-to-face learning, group work and online learning. This covers the culture and professional values of nursing in the UK, support to prepare for NMC registration, and also clinical skills simulation. Participants are also allocated a personal tutor and are supported in NHS job application and interview preparation.

Across the duration of the programme, each participant undertakes an Assessment of Prior Learning (APL) to support them in gathering the necessary evidence of previous experience and knowledge. This process helps the course leaders determine the most appropriate role for each individual to begin their NHS career - generally these will either be as a Band 4 Pre-Registered Nurse, or as a Band 3 Healthcare Assistant (HCA). At the end of the four-week programme, interviews are arranged for the nurses with trusts who have agreed to take part in the programme. The scope of the programme for the first cohort was to work with NHS trust in and around Merseyside - however, with the second cohort we will be looking to involve trusts across the country. This will create the benefit of participants not having to relocate for work, whilst allowing us to expand the reach of this exciting initiative.

One of the commitments of the programme is to ensure that participants are actively supported towards achieving their NMC registration and, eventually, working as fully registered nurses. With this in mind, each participant undertakes a Development Programme to support them in developing the skills and knowledge required to successfully work in a UK healthcare setting, and to prepare them to undertake the CBT and OSCE assessments that are a requirement for NMC registration.

Importantly, the programme does not adopt a pass-fail model: instead, participants are interviewed for commensurate roles in the NHS, or directed toward additional training and support if necessary. In this way we ensure that no talent is lost or ignored. The support and dedication shown by NHSEI and LJMU on this has been incredible - not just in terms of the success of the programme, but also the tailored support and pastoral care provided to the participants.

This project provides a powerful example of how great an asset refugee and asylum-seeking individuals are to the UK, and we hope it can serve as a future model for employers both in and outside of the NHS.

Testimonial from Dr. H (would prefer to remain anonymous)

Dr. H is a qualified Doctor from Turkey, who specialises in Neuroscience. She has recently started a clinical position at an NHS hospital in Middlesex: 

“I am writing to say thank you for your amazing support and guidance on my journey. What you are doing is fantastic guys :) you are working non-stop! Keeping us updated with current job opportunities, helping to contact the best hospitals, supporting through the job application process and afterwards. As a result of your incredible effort, I had an offer from one of the best hospitals in the UK and will be starting my first job as a refugee doctor next month.

You were always kind and supportive to me through my journey, and I always felt free to get in touch with you, which I appreciate.”

You can also hear two of the participants, Mona and Walid, share their stories to BBC North West here