Kenyan Nurses and the Crisis of NHS Nurse Staffing

We’re publishing a guest post today by Dr. Ann Bradshaw, a retired Lecturer in Adult Health Care, about the scandal of the Government’s failed efforts to import nurses from Kenya in a vain attempt to solve Britain’s nursing crisis.

The U.K. nurse staffing crisis shows that the current system of recruitment, retention and training of nurses is not working.

In July 2021, the U.K. Government made a Memorandum of Understanding with the Kenyan Government to take 20,000 of its 30,000 unemployed nurses to Britain. I didn’t see this publicised in the press and thought it strange that Kenya has so many unemployed nurses.   

Then I saw in Nursing Times that the Kenyan Government would be taking a cut of these nurses’ salaries. Then I saw that this was denied by the U.K. Government.

Then I saw that Kenyan nurses were failing English language tests. Then, on November 11th, I saw that this U.K. recruitment of nurses from Kenya was being halted because Kenya is on its list of countries facing a shortage of health workers.

So why is there such a problem recruiting and retaining nurses in the U.K.? Why has the U.K. Government been forced to look to Kenya for nurses? I have argued elsewhere (see here and here) that the move to become academic by the nursing elite was not primarily intended to improve care for patients – its primary objective was to improve the status of the profession and divorce it from medicine.

This revolutionary change to make nursing academic has had, from the evidence that I have adduced, a disastrous impact on both recruitment and retention of nurses. Much of this so-called academic body of nursing literature is esoteric and of extremely dubious academic quality. Indeed, the highly ranked, prestigious, international nursing journal, the Journal of Advanced Nursing, admits this in an editorial by two U.K. nursing professors titled: “Is academic nursing being sabotaged by its own killer elite?”

In my view, nursing’s ‘killer elite’ is the Blob, and it is not merely killing the ‘academy’, it is killing the purpose of nursing: care for the patient. This has been clear to me long before this editorial. Very many of the published ‘research’ papers I read were shoddy methodologically and irrelevant to the needs of patients. Anonymous peer review rejections sent to me over the years, when I sought to publish articles critically analysing these pieces of research, revealed reviewers’ biased ‘gate-keeping’. Reviewers’ comments were devoid of knowledge and revealed a lack interest in any critical thinking. 

It seems to me that so-called ‘academic nursing’ is an emperor with no clothes and a means of protectionism. That is why there is a chasm of division between the needs of NHS patients and the wants of the nursing academy. Nursing professors and lecturers generally do not work on the wards. They are the university nursing Blob, divorced from the concrete realities of practice. That is why the NHS cannot use student nurses as part of the NHS workforce thus immediately solving the nurse staffing crisis. It is why the U.K. looks to Kenya to provide nurses for the NHS. Surely this is a scandal?