Why It’s High Time to Become a Nurse in the U.K.

It’s now or maybe never when it comes to applying as a nurse in the United Kingdom.



One of the exciting things about working in a recruitment agency is how it constantly exposes us to individuals in varying roles and fields. Some time last month, for example, we had the opportunity to present a program to the Dean of one of the top nursing schools in the Philippines.


Talking to him was a refreshing experience, as he briefed us on the new nursing curriculum and how the industry has changed so much since the last decade. One remarkable information that I picked up was how these nurses are now demonstrating strong preference towards a nursing career in the United Kingdom more than any other country—yes, even more than the United States.


If you’re a nurse or a nursing student who has been reading the news, this shouldn’t come as a surprise to you. Ever since the U.K. Government added Nurses to its shortage occupation list in October 2015, thousands of Filipino nurses have been applying to various NHS Trusts through several Philippine recruitment agencies. Some of the advantages that attract these nurses to the European country are the following:


Competitive compensation package. A Filipino nurse with just 1 year of post-license experience has the potential to earn 1.5MPhP annual basic salary in the United Kingdom. This is equivalent to roughly 125,000PhP every month. Since the U.K. has very lean working hours of 37.5 hours per week, she has the option to multiply this income through regularly taking overtime shifts. Most NHS Trusts also reimburse many of the application costs involved such as the IELTS / OET, NMC Registration, and the UK-CBT. Nurse vacancies in the U.K. also come with the standard paid leaves, health insurance, airfare, all in the absence of placement or processing fees.


Internationally-recognized health care standards and practices. According to the Commonwealth Fund, an internationally-recognized foundation that ranks health care systems, the United Kingdom has one of the best healthcare services in the world. This is largely driven by the National Health Service (NHS), the publicly funded health care system of the U.K., which is also the largest single-payer healthcare system among all countries. With this, any nurse or health care practitioner will gain the career growth, fulfillment and strong credentials that she has been dreaming of by joining any NHS Trust.


Overtime is common practice among U.K. nurses. NHS Professionals, a temporary staffing company, makes booking OT shifts easy through its online site.

Progressive culture. Similar to other Western countries, the United Kingdom offers equal opportunities to foreign workers. This can be attributed to the U.K.’s diverse environment and liberated culture, which makes it very different from countries in the Middle East or Asia. The opportunity for migration is also one of its key features since Filipino nurses who initially come in on work visas can eventually apply for permanent residency and even bring their families.


English as primary language. We may be more accustomed to American English, but British English is one that we can easily learn as well. We noticed that in our recent conversations with our deployed candidates, many of them already speak like their British colleagues after just a few months of working there!


There are many other advantages of working as a nurse in the U.K. but I’m here to emphasize two reasons on why nurses who want to work in the U.K. must apply as soon as possible.


First, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), the regulator of all nursing and midwifery positions in the U.K., and the U.K. Government, have implemented noteworthy changes that are very encouraging for foreign applicants. In recent years, the NMC has


  • allowed candidates to re-take only the portion of the practical licensure exam (OSCE) that they have failed, and not the entire exam;

  • lowered the Writing sub-test grade requirement from 7.0 to 6.5 in the language exam (IELTS), which is also the most difficult sub-test among the four

  • enhanced their online application system through updating applicants on their status via personal accounts and a more informative NMC website

  • lowered the cost of the written licensure exam (UK-CBT) from 90GBP to 83GBP


U.K. nurses will now have an easier application process with the NMC's user-friendly online site.

Additionally, the U.K. Government removed its language exam requirement (IELTS) for foreign applicants’ visa applications if they have already passed the IELTS or the OET as part of the requirements of the NMC. All of these mean that whoever applies now will traverse a much easier process compared to before, thanks to the feedback of all the nurses who have applied to the United Kingdom before them.


A nurse doesn't have to take the IELTS for her visa anymore if she already achieved the required NMC scores in the IELTS / OET.

Second, the United Kingdom currently has a significant shortage of nurses, but as what recruiters like us usually say, large-scale overseas opportunities have their own time. We have witnessed even our most lucrative sources of deployments come and go in our more than 21 years of recruiting nurses bound abroad. Just as how U.S. visa requirement revisions and new hiring practices of U.A.E. employers affected the recruitment of Filipino nurses in the last decade, nurse vacancies in the United Kingdom are not immune to changes. Yes, many groups are continuously lobbying for additional changes to the U.K. nurse application process for foreign workers. But there are political and economic forces in the United Kingdom (and sometimes, even other countries) that may lead to a very different scenario in the next few years. It's simply impossible for our line of work to be unaffected by such events in the destinations that we serve! Like any other country, this level of demand for nurses in the U.K. will eventually run its course. So if you have been considering a nursing career in the U.K, then now is definitely the best time to apply.


If you already have an ongoing U.K. nurse application, congratulations. If not, you may want to consider visiting our Ortigas office anytime soon. Our client NHS Professionals is visiting Manila this week to help manage the employer interviews of South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust among Filipino nurses. Click here for more details.


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Karla Yu is the Special Projects Officer of Abba Personnel Services, Inc. She joined the team last August 2016 and has pioneered several projects ever since, such as the company's Marketing standards and practices; the Abba.ph Apply Online System; and Abba's sister company Tracker, an overseas licensing agency. She was a former brand management practitioner handling internationally-recognized brands, such as URC's C2 Cool and Clean and McDonald's Breakfast / 24 Hours. She is an Honorable Mention graduate of the Ateneo de Manila University's BS Communications Technology Management curriculum, and was one of the business course's top 10 students.

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