Policy targets and ethical tensions: UK nurse recruitment

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11 Citations (Scopus)


In July 2000 Britain's New Labour government set a target of 20,000 extra nurses for the NHS by 2004. In February 2002, two years ahead of schedule, the target was achieved. The government is to be congratulated on meeting its target but ethical questions over recruitment practices remain. Nurse registrations to the UK from the (then) fifteen EU countries remain flat despite government guidance making this the first priority for international recruitment. Registrations from developing countries with nursing shortages continue despite repeated guidance discouraging this. The government appears to have been caught in a policy bind. On the one hand it needed to be seen to be acting to prevent "poaching" while waiting for fresh intakes of trainees to come through; on the other, if it had succeeded it would have struggled to meet a key policy pledge and certainly not ahead of schedule. New Labour's stated commitment to an ethical foreign policy seems more apparent than real. The paper reports a clear dissonance between the thrust of national policy on nurse recruitment and current employment practices within the UK.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)775-792
Number of pages17
JournalSocial Policy and Administration
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 26 Nov 2004


  • UK nurse recruitment
  • policy targets
  • ethical tensions


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