Speaking at the launch of the new Interim NHS People Plan, Mr Hancock called for another major international recruitment drive like the one that took place following the Second World War where nurses were invited to Britain from the Caribbean to help rebuild the nation.
“The people plan spells out how we need a new Windrush Generation for the NHS”
These workers and their families became known as the Windrush Generation in reference to the name of the ship that brought some of the first to the UK in 1948.
Last year, the government came under fire after it emerged that some of these individuals had been wrongly threatened with deportation in what has been labelled the Windrush Scandal.
Mr Hancock said: “We must never forget the enormous contribution that people born beyond these shores have made to one of this nation’s greatest institutions.
“The people plan spells out how we need a new Windrush Generation for the NHS,” he said. “A recruitment drive to attract the brightest and best doctors, nurses, and clinical staff from overseas.”
“An NHS nurse has a passport to anywhere”
Mr Hancock, who is currently vying to become the next prime minister, said he wanted to send a “clear message” to international staff willing to come to the UK that the NHS “will be your new home”.
“Our NHS could not provide its world-class service to patients without the hardworking doctors and nurses from other nations,” Mr Hancock told delegates at East London NHS Foundation Trust.
He also raised concern that students could be put off from entering nursing by negative stories about the “the stresses and the strains” of the role.
While recognising that the job had become more challenging, Mr Hancock said only talking about the problems and not the positives risked shutting off nursing from “ambitious, young” people.
“Nursing is a first-choice career,” he said. ”An NHS nurse has a passport to anywhere.”
The interim people plan (see PDF attached below) was released yesterday and included a raft of measures to tackle nursing shortages, including by “significantly” increasing the number of nurses being recruited from overseas.
Source: Department of Health and Social Care
However, a target of bringing in 5,000 foreign nurses a year that was included in a leak draft version of the report has been removed from the final release.
The aim is to grow the nurse workforce by more than 40,000 by 2024 – about the same number the NHS is currently short of.
Mr Hancock said changing the perception of nursing was “fundamental” to the delivery of the plan and to closing the staffing gap.
“That way we can get the right number of people and the right type of people in the NHS: talented, ambitious, hard-working, committed to caring,” he added.
News stories on the interim NHS People Plan