Refugee healthcare professionals

Ear examination

NHS Employers is working closely with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and non-government organisations (NGOs) to help place skilled refugee nurses from both outside of the UK and within, back into employment.

Over the past few months we have been exploring workforce shortages with provider organisations to match opportunities to a number of nurses currently in Lebanon and Jordan. Through connecting with Talent Beyond Boundaries, we have carried out a selection exercise and identified a small cohort of trusts to take part in a financially supported pilot which aims to start in April 2021. We are currently discussing the viability of the pilot with the five trusts selected and more information will be available in due course. 

The pilot will initially focus on supporting 40 refugee nurses transition to the UK and if successful, it could lead to a scalable ongoing workforce supply pipeline. The pilot was nominated for the Healthcare Recruitment Health Business Award in December 2020. 

NHS Employers is also engaging with RefuAid who have a number of skilled healthcare professionals here in the UK who are actively seeking employment in the NHS. This 2021 BBC article published in May highlights how the first two cohorts to Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital NHS Foundation Trust were fast tracked by a four week residential pilot course. Usually refugees are not able to work in the UK while their application is being processed, but this programme enables them to be assessed and supported to find appropriate placements.

If you are interested in discussing your current vacancies with RefuAid, please get in touch with

Information about regional work to support refugees 

  • Reache North West was set up to assist refugee and asylum seeking healthcare professionals in the North West to register their qualification in the UK. So far they have helped 224 healthcare professionals to secure roles. Based at Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust, it provides advice and guidance, job search support, PLAB courses, support in finding supervised practise/adaptation and access to resources.
  • Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust is helping to assist skilled refugees into NHS roles through the healthcare overseas professionals (HOP) programme.
  • The Building Bridges programme, run by the Refugee Council  is a NHS funded partnership for refugee health professionals living in London. The Refugee Council assist refugee doctors to re-qualify to UK standards and secure employment appropriate to their professional qualifications.

Best practice

NHS Employers has produced the following materials to support NHS trusts in employing refugee healthcare professionals.
  • The case for working with refugee healthcare professionals: an equality and diversity perspective – this document outlines the business, legal and community case from an equality and diversity perspective for the NHS to support the training and employment of refugee healthcare professionals in the NHS.
  • Supporting skilled refugees into clinical practice to help workforce supply - this case study looks at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust’s resettlement programme for refugees, which is assisting qualified overseas doctors and healthcare professionals to achieve professional registration in the UK.
  • North Tees refugee recruitment programme - this blog by Professor Jane Metcalf outlines the chronic workforce supply shortages faced in the trust and how a unique programme to support skilled refugees is helping to tackle the challenge.
  • Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust sits in the second most-deprived area of England, with low-quality housing, a transient community, and poor levels of education. The trust ran a number of widening participation initiatives, supporting people from the local refugee and migrant population to return to a career in healthcare, they have also engaged with young people and ex-offenders. 

Employing refugee healthcare professionals

The employment of refugee healthcare professionals has many benefits for employers and helps NHS organisations to meet their requirements in a number of areas, including workforce supply, equality and diversity and corporate social responsibility.

A refugee is a person who has had a positive decision on their claim for asylum under the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (the Refugee Convention) and has been granted leave to remain in the UK. Refugees are forced to leave their countries due to fear of persecution, often as a result of direct state action.

Refugees should be considered differently to economic migrants. They don't currently have a dedicated route as part of the points-based immigration system, where migrants are required to meet a particular level of skills and experience and employers are given sponsorship duties however work is underway to develop a displaced talent visa. Refugees are able to work in the UK without any restrictions, and are legally protected from discrimination.

Guidance for employers on preventing illegal working, asylum seekers and refugees can be found on the UK Visas and Immigration website. The Refugee Council and the Equality and Human Rights Commission have also produced the Employing Refugees guide which provides employers with important information about employing a refugee and what documents need to be checked to demonstrate their entitlement to work in the UK.

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