Removing the red tape: streamlining the recruitment of international healthcare workers urges NHS trusts to turn to blockchain-enabled verification to unravel lengthy recruiting processes and make the most of funding.

Last year the NHS announced a multi-million-pound funding boost, which included a £28m fund to support international nurses and midwives who are waiting in the wings to join their frontline. While this increase in funding is clearly a positive step,, a leading provider of Primary Source Verification (PSV) services, warns that overly bureaucratic, costly and lengthy recruitment practices need to be modernised if the NHS is to achieve its long-term plan of closing the skills gap.

International recruitment forms one part of the NHS People Plan, as the health service looks to reduce a shortage of nurses. Despite thousands of nurses from across the globe having their plans to join the NHS derailed by coronavirus, overseas nurses have now started to travel to the UK and take up positions in multiple trusts. This is set to be bolstered further by the international recruitment fund, which will help NHS organisations pay for additional costs incurred because of coronavirus, including accommodation and quarantine.

With the UK’s withdrawal from the EU adding further concern around a shortfall in healthcare workers, this increased level of support for international nurses has come at a vital moment. However, there are continuing reports around qualified healthcare workers, who are ready and waiting to support an understaffed NHS, facing significant barriers and delays. This has opened up a wider debate on the red tape that continues to surround the international healthcare recruitment, which must be addressed if the NHS is to meet its long-term plan of reducing skill shortages.

Alejandro Coca, co-head of, explains: “We know from our own experience that qualified health workers are sitting at home all over the world, desperate to be on the front line helping to tackle the crisis, but are unable to do so quickly and efficiently. Recent reports that international healthcare workers are facing delays are therefore no surprise and is an all too familiar story. This is particularly the case when it comes to the long, costly, and complex process of professional document verification. Verifying the credentials of any candidate from overseas is often a lengthy process that can be difficult to perform without competent regional knowledge and contacts. Add to this the complexities of a language barrier and the process becomes near impossible.”

For Alejandro, cutting this red tape and streamlining the document verification process will be critical for not only the ongoing fight against Covid-19, but also addressing long standing skill shortages across the sector.

“It is no secret that skill shortages have been and continue to be one of the biggest challenges facing the NHS. There is a growing level of staff shortages in NHS trusts across most levels of seniority, with recent figures projecting that staff shortfalls in the NHS will grow from over 100,000 in 2018 to almost 250,000 by 2030. This is only set to get worse as the effects of Brexit are fully realised. Now is therefore the time for the sector to think about how they can streamline the recruitment process and ensure that any new investment being made into recruiting internationally is optimised.”

Alejandro advises how technology has a key role to play in streamlining this process: “Speeding up the recruitment process isn’t easy, but there are new technologies readily available that can take this headache away. In particular, blockchain is an innovation that can also be used to speed up the document verification process, offering a ‘verify once, use forever’ approach to verifying an applicant’s credentials. This eliminates the continual churn of verification requests every time an international healthcare worker applies for a new role, helping UK regulators, HR managers and NHS recruiters avoid some of the red tape that has hindered tapping into international talent pools in the past.

“We all know that the Covid-19 pandemic has ignited a reassessment of the role that technology can play in tackling health crises and the healthcare sector more broadly. However, to ensure that the sector continues to become more efficient, reduce skill shortages and optimise any investment being made in international recruitment, it is critical that they continue to innovate and look to new technologies.”


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