Penny Streeter OBE, MD of Ambition 24hours, writes:-
The new points-based immigration system in the UK is more restrictive for agency and employer recruiters – but it does not seek to address the severe problems for developing countries caused by the exodus of its most highly trained nationals.
Countries like South Africa are losing skilled professional staff at an alarming rate. In the country’s medical sector which Ambition 24hours services as a temporary staffing agency – filling some 1,000 positions each week with doctors, nurses and other skilled medics – shortages of permanent staff are directly impacting on the levels of treatment that can be provided in hospitals and primary care.
In South Africa there is an unfilled vacancy rate of 33 per cent for nurses and 53 per cent for doctors. In some busy A&E departments – particularly in rural areas like Limpopo, where it is particularly hard to recruit staff – there is sometimes only a single doctor in attendance, dealing with the medical consequences of endemic violent crime, Aids and other healthcare problems that beset much of southern and central Africa’s service provision.
Ambition 24hours has a branch network of eight offices in South Africa, deploying the operational model that we developed in the UK, where there are 14 branches, to alleviate temporary staffing shortages effectively on a 24-7 basis. We have a firm policy of not seeking to recruit staff from Africa for the UK: this is because we hear at first hand from doctors and nurses the consequences of this type of activity by staffing agencies and employers from developed countries.
Clearly there should be no discrimination in the UK against doctors and nurses from Africa: the free flow of labour is essential and enables medical specialists to acquire new skills and experience from abroad. Also, with the reach of the internet, employers will continue to recruit across international borders, whether by design or otherwise.
However, it is time that countries in the developed world recognise their responsibilities and the impact that active recruitment programmes have on South Africa and other countries they may target. The UK, USA, Ireland, Canada and Australia need more qualified professionals, but so does Africa.