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DENOSA urges SA government to develop staff retention plan before more nurses are lost to the UK again!  

Media statement    

Tuesday, 26 March 2019      


Following a major joint report that was released last week in the United Kingdom on the severe shortage of nurses in England and the advice from policy experts that managers of hospitals should personally fly to low and middle income countries to actively recruit nurses to work in the  National Health Service (NHS) in England, the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (DENOSA) would like to urge the National Department of Health to put in place, urgently, a staff retention plan before South African nurses leave for England in large numbers, which will further hurt the country’s own National Health Insurance (NHI) plan. 

The report by the King’s Fund, Nuffield Trust and Health Foundation announced the state of severe shortage of nurses in England, which it estimates that it will double to 70 000 in the next three to four years due to a drop in domestic applications for the training of nurses following the abolition of bursaries of nursing students in 2016 in that country. In spite of this shortage, the report found that the NHS in England was recruiting a meagre 1 600 nurses from abroad when in fact it should increase this by an additional 5 000. 

What is more worrying for DENOSA about this report is that it threatens to worsen the South African shortage of nurses and thus the quality of healthcare service, because both the Chief Executive of King’s Fund and former Director of Strategy at the Department of Health in England say delegating the hiring of nurses to private agencies to find overseas staff has not worked and that NHS bosses should play an active role in the recruitment of overseas nursing staff.  

NHS in the UK is the equivalence of NHI in South Africa. And because the National Department of Health in South Africa does not have a staff retention plan currently, the increase in the effort of recruiting nurses by England will make it easy for local nurses to leave for greener pastures because the conditions they work under in South Africa are extremely poor and demotivating to say the least. 

What was the then staff retention strategy by the Department of Health in SA from 2007, in the form of Occupation-Specific Dispensation (OSD) for nurses, has long lapsed and has since passed its sell-by-date by over seven years! The OSD should have been reviewed by 2012, but this has never happened, owing to government’s endless delaying tactics at the bargaining chamber, the Public Health Social Development Sectoral Bargaining Chamber (PHSDSBC). It had to be reviewed after five years of implementation, to take into account years of service in government by nurses and acquisition of additional skills among others, which in essence encouraged public servants to stay in the government employ. 

When OSD was implemented in July 2007, within six months 12 000 nurses had returned back into the country, and within a year, the rate of job applications by South African nurses to the UK had dropped by almost 80%.  

Currently, there is no staff retention plan that will discourage nurses from leaving this country at the moment other than emotional attachment only.  

This report should serve as a warning sign for South Africa.  

While we encourage nurses in our country to remain patriotic, we call on government to make it possible for nurses to continue giving their service to their country by putting in place a staff retention plan.        


Issued by the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (DENOSA)

For more information and comment, contact:

Cassim Lekhoathi, DENOSA Acting General Secretary 

Mobile: 082 328 9671 


Simon Hlungwani, DENOSA President 

Mobile: 082 328 9635 


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