Surge in overseas recruitment

Ambulance services within the UK are increasingly looking overseas to recruit staff as a result of a nationwide shortage of paramedics. The need for the drive has been brought on, in part, following the recommendation for paramedics to be added to the shortage occupation list for the first time (Migratory Advisory Committee, 2015). Significant increases in demand for ambulances in the UK following the shift in focus to treat people at home rather than in A&E; high staff attrition due to work pressures and stress brought on by longer working hours; and growing opportunities for paramedics to take on roles in alternative areas, have all contributed to the shortage.

While only one paramedic was recruited from overseas from 2013–2014, 183 have already been recruited from 2014–2015, with additional recruitment planned for the rest of the year (Renaud-Komiya and Calkin, 2015). Many of the staff now employed by the London Ambulance Service NHS Trust (LAS) have come over from Australia and New Zealand, where paramedics share a similar skillset with the UK. There is also the added benefit of a mutual language. Conversely, South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust has turned to Poland to help combat their shortage of paramedics. The assessment process within the LAS involves completing a clinical paper, a lifting assessment, and a practical assessment on advanced life support, as well as an oral interview.

However, it is worth noting that the migration of healthcare workers brings with it ethical issues, as services abroad may suffer as a result of their own falling numbers (Peate, 2014). An article in the Herald Sun referred to the ‘aggressive’ campaign being undertaken by LAS as an attempt to ‘poach’ Victorian paramedics (Van den Berg, 2014).

The UK is not alone in looking overseas for recruitment. Many paramedics who trained in the UK now work in countries such as Australia or the United Arab Emirates. However, the extent at which paramedics from other countries are being targeted for recruitment is certainly an anomaly within the UK. While it certainly offers a short-term solution for the current shortage ‘crisis’, it is questionable whether it presents a real answer to the problem. It is undoubted that national investment is needed in the paramedic profession.

That being said, the positives of overseas recruitment shouldn’t be overlooked. Working abroad, even if only temporarily, offers opportunities for intercultural awareness and the development of global perspectives of issues, as well as an insight into alternative pathways of care, service provision and paramedic practice to one’s own country.


Migratory Advisory Committee (2015) Partial review of the Shortage Occupation Lists for the UK and Scotland. MAC, London. (accessed 26 March 2015)

Peate I (2014) Ethical recruitment and employment of internationally educated paramedics. Journal of Paramedic Practice 6(10): 500–501. doi: 10.12968/jpar.2014.6.10.500

Renaud-Komiya N, Calkin S (2015) Trusts forced to look overseas to plug paramedic gaps. HSJ. (accessed 27 March 2015)

Van den Berg L (2014) London in bid to lure Victorian paramedics. Herald Sun. http:// bid-to-lure-victorian-paramedics/storyfni0fit3- 1227011369042 (accessed 17 September 2014)

Taken from International Paramedic Practice, published 8 April 2015.

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