Race Equality peer learning event: Inclusive recruitment and supporting our internationally educated workforce

Race Equality peer learning event, held on 7 March 2023.

This interactive online peer learning event included:

Find the presentation slides here.


Presentation on internationally educated nurses (IENs) by Louie Horne – clinical research fellow, Workforce Race Equality Standard, NHS England

Louie provided an overview of the process of becoming an IEN in the NHS, and some of the hurdles they experience both pre and post arrival into the UK. These challenges include but are not limited to:


Louie gave examples of actions taken by individual provider trusts to tackle these challenges and drive improvements in inclusive recruitment and talent management, covering:


Breakout discussion key themes 

Delegates were invited to join breakout groups to discuss, "What intervention has delivered the greatest impact in terms of improving the experience of international educated workforce in your recruitment processes? ".  Key themes from these discussions are highlighted below: 

A need for holistic pastoral support - nothing is too basic

Pastoral support was an area that several trusts had begun to explore. Delegates noted the importance of cultural awareness training for existing staff members before new IEW colleagues arrived, to develop a culture of support and belonging in readiness. This increased awareness and understanding amongst existing staff and was reported to have reduced the risk of IEW staff being undervalued for their contributions and skills on arrival.  


The importance of having a specific lead for international recruitment was discussed but delegates also advocated the need for a named individuals for IEW staff to approach for pastoral support. This could be in the form of an assigned mentor or buddy from the IEW within the trust, or an interim manager to support the new IEW staff to adapt. It was stressed that this support should already be in place when new colleagues first arrive in the UK.  


When discussing the interventions that had been implemented, it was clear that there was a lot of variation in the level of support that is offered across trusts. Services such as airport pickup, support opening bank accounts and welcome events are being considered as essential basics or exceptional support was dependent on how developed individual offers were. However, regardless of the number of support mechanisms available in individual trusts, any support that is given contributes to an improved experience for IEW staff on arrival.  Comprehensive onboarding and induction was seen as key to positive integration into both new workplaces, and into hometowns, with some trusts providing local familiarisation tours. Those who were more established in their pastoral support mechanisms for IEW staff spoke of challenges experienced in securing permanent accommodation and trusts having to acting as guarantors for accommodation.    


It was also noted that interventions to support the IEW are often focussed specifically on the needs of IENs or International Medical Graduates (IMGs). Consideration needs to be given to the full range of roles covered by the IEW. Trusts also need to be conscious of the IEW experience within established teams, with some reporting feeling isolated/excluded from their teams. 

Talent management

Delegates agreed that there is a need for clear, well communicated talent progression pathways, with access to appraisals and 1:1s, and positive action measures to support IEW staff navigate NHS recruitment processes and access development and promotion opportunities. Examples of interventions being implemented included HR led support sessions for IEW staff completing application forms; interview guidance; and specific development pathways from for IEW staff at agenda for change band 5 and 6 alongside the general development pathways. 


Delegates shared examples of implementing inclusive recruitment practices, such as those outlined in No more tickboxes which focusses on debiasing the processes rather than the individuals, to positive effect.  

Staff engagement is key to supporting your IEW

Delegates discussed the importance of providing safe spaces for the IEW. One effective way of enabling this was via staff equality networks where staff were able to connect with peers and able to share challenges and learning, and provide signposting. One trust shared how their network of IEW’s helped create safe spaces for other newly recruited IEW’s. This also assisted in the development of buddying and mentoring relationships - to build connections and support development. The network is also used in an advisory capacity to seek feedback on support mechanisms for the IEW to ensure they are appropriate and meet employee need. 

The role of leaders

Delegates spoke of the crucial role that leaders play in setting out the values and culture across their organisations, particularly in relation to their commitment to equality diversity and inclusion as well as their commitment to act against any forms of racism. It was agreed that the experiences of the IEW can only be improved by listening to and acting on feedback. Examples of leadership engagement with the IEW included regular conversations about lived experience with trust leadership teams to raise awareness and inform the development of better support mechanisms. 

Chair: Sir Julian Hartley – Chief executive officer, NHS Providers 

Speaker: Louie Horne – Clinical research fellow, Workforce Race Equality Standard, NHS England