The Royal College of Nursing has welcomed the government's new bid to try to extend its ethical recruitment policy to the private sector, but called for a policy "with more teeth in it".
The NHS already has a recruitment code which seeks to ensure that poorer, mainly African, countries are not deprived of vital nursing staff, but according to the general secretary of the RCN, Beverley Malone, there is a "loophole, a back door" which allows private agencies to bring nurses from those countries into the UK.
Speaking on the 'Today' programme, Ms Malone emphasised that the RCN was concerned about the ethical aspects of recruitment and not about the possibility of foreign nurses taking British jobs.
"At this time there are plenty of jobs for nurses throughout the whole of the UK, in fact there's a shortage and it's been the international nurses that have really salvaged and allowed us to have a quality healthcare system within the country," she said.
"There will be continued international recruitment. Our concern is that it's coming from a country that can least afford it, like some of the African countries where they are plagued with Aids and where nurses are a rare economy and when they're taken, it destroys the health economy of that country."
But she agreed that the new ruling would be voluntary and not mandatory and she said the RCN would prefer to see something "with more teeth in it."
"We're hoping that the government will consider putting something that will not just encourage, but will have some way of saying this is something that must be done," she said.
The government is expected to make a statement on the matter by the end of this week.
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