Working as a Nurse in the UK

Nursing registration in the UK is covered by the Nursing and Midwifery Council

There are over 650,000 nurses in the UK with many of them working for the National Health Service, and many more working in the private sector including care homes, private hospitals and others. Nursing registration is broken down into many categories with the majority on the general or adult register, but there are also children’s nurses, mental health and learning disability nurses, and other categories.

The United Kingdom can be broken down into England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. They are all subject to the same regulator.(We have however given information on Northern Ireland in our section on Ireland).

England is by far the largest of these with a population of around 53 million, Scotland has more than 6 million residents and Wales more than 3 million. London is the capital city of England, and indeed the largest city in Europe and other large cities in Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool for example. Well known cities in Scotland would include Edinburgh and Glasgow, while Cardiff is the capital city, and Newport another important one.

There are substantial nurse shortages throughout the UK. Estimates are that one in ten roles currently need to be filled. An important consideration for an international nurse relocating is to consider location. The transport infrastructure is good in general, however many nurses nevertheless work in more rural settings. The balance in this decision is between the cost of living in the location, transport links and travelling times, with the availability of housing close to the work location.
In terms of sport, the isles have a tradition in soccer, cricket, and rugby and culturally, literature, art and music are all important. Famous English people living would include Paul Mc Cartney (The Beatles, Music), Stephen Hawking (Physicist) and of course Queen Elizabeth the Second, who has reigned the country, and indeed the Commonwealth since 1952.

In terms of historical figures this is the land of Shakespeare, Winston Churchill, Charles Darwin, Charlie Chaplin, Charles Dickens and not least the founding light of British nursing, Florence Nightingale.

Famous Scots include JK Rowling (Harry Potter), Billy Connolly (Comedian) and Sean Connery (Actor). Historically Scotland boasts such luminaries as Alexander Fleming (Penicillin), John Logie Baird (Radio), Alexander Graham Bell (Telephone), Robert Burns(Poet) together with Robert the Bruce (King), William Wallace (Patriot), David Hume and Adam Smith (Economists).

Famous Welsh include Shirley Bassey (singer), Anthony HopkIns (actor), and Ryan Giggs (footballer).Historically, Dylan Thomas (Poet), David Lloyd George (Prime Minister) and again, last but not least, Aneuran Bevan, who fought for the foundation of the NHS ( National Health Service) itself.

In the initial stages of working in the UK you will want to source accommodation. Generally, your employer will help with this. Sometimes they will arrange temporary accommodation, to allow you the time to source something that you can choose yourself.

The first stage of your direct interaction with the employer will generally be through the ‘meet and greet’ process. This involves the employer of recruiter meeting the nurse from flights and taking them to their initial accommodation and workplace. Levels of support vary, some provide ‘welcome packs’ including the everyday basics needed after a tiring flight, and before the first visit to shops. Some will also inspect private accommodation on the nurse’s behalf making sure that basics like clean accommodation, linen, lighting, heating are all adequately provided. They will also confirm with the nurse initial shift and training arrangements, and perhaps arrange an early tour of their new workplace.

To give some ideas on accommodation front there are websites available:

However, once in situ it will also be possible to explore through local estate agents. Many nurses in the past have found that once they start work they are often able to arrange to share accommodation with work colleagues.

Early after arrival it will be necessary to register for UK Taxation and obtain a national insurance number which acts as a unique identifier for you when dealing with government on taxation and welfare matters.

Often after arrival the new nurse will also be required to undertake the training provided by the hospital or care group. These will vary according to the nature of the position and organisation. Typically, areas that would be covered would include health and safety, manual handling, basic life support, infection control, risk management and data protection. This training may be delivered in a classroom format within a training facility, on a ward or unit or online. Sometimes the employer will also provide language training assistance. A further educational focus at this stage will be ) where the nurse is in a pre-registration capacity with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).

Another suggestion at an early stage would be for the nurse to join a union. These cannot be suggested by the Employer, but some examples of unions representing nurse include:

The Royal College of Nursing –
Unison –

As well as campaigning for better outcomes with respect to nurses, the unions can be a support where nurses are facing disciplinary or fitness to practice investigations.

As is often remarked ‘first impressions count’ and it would also be our experience that where nurses are provided with all the help possible in terms of initial integration, it will generally signal a happy workplace, and be rewarded in turn by commitment and loyalty on the part of the nurse.