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NHS managers need to rely less on foreign nurses to help curb the shortage of trained staff as there are "a lot of people in this country who want to be nurses", the head of the Royal College of Nursing warned.
Dr Peter Carter denied the call to move away from overseas labour was "an anti-immigration thing", and said:
The NHS will be forced to rely on more agency nurses to pick up shifts to plug the gap caused by cuts to training places for student nurses, experts have warned.
More foreign nurses will also be drafted in to help the NHS cope with a trained staff shortage, which will only "get worse" before it gets better, warns the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).
In 2009/10 training places hit a high of 20,829 places, but in 2012/13 the figures dipped to 17,219 places, an RCN spokesman said.
While the number of places have been on the rise since then, the full effect of the fall in numbers will only be seen in the next year or two as thousands of fewer students graduate than usual, the spokesman said.
And to fill the gap the health service will have to examine more costly options including paying for expensive agency staff and recruiting from abroad, he said.