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Association helps 350 Indian nurses get promoted

The British Indian Nurses Association (BINA) has helped 350 of its members to get a promotion, with 20 now working in senior leadership positions across England and Wales, the organisation has announced.

BINA’s founder and chair, Marimouttou Coumarassamy, called on White leaders working in health and care organisations to support the career progression of Indian nurses.

The calls came during BINA’s second annual conference, which was held in Leicester on 1 December, and coincided with news that a record number of Indian nurses are now practising in the UK.

During his keynote address, Mr Coumarassamy noted that the NHS had “one of the most ethnically diverse workforces in the public sector” and argued that he did not see a future for the health service “without an international workforce”.

He said: “If you see the NMC register, nurses from the Philippines and India, they dominate the register [in terms of internationally educated registrants].

“Without the international workforce, the NHS would be on its knees.”

Despite this, Mr Coumarassamy warned that minority ethnic staff continued to report “worse experiences in terms of their lives and careers” compared to their White counterparts.

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In addition, he highlighted that minority ethnic staff were underrepresented in senior positions in the NHS.

As such, Mr Coumarassamy urged trust leaders to work with BINA to “bridge the gap” between minority ethnic staff and White colleagues.

Meanwhile, he also called on Black and minority ethnic leaders to amplify the voices of nurses from underrepresented communities.

He said: “We, as [Black and minority ethnic] leaders, need to take responsibility to lift our people up.

“We really need to think about how we are going to support people from our own communities.”

BINA was founded in August 2020 with just more than 200 members, explained Mr Coumarassamy.

Now, in 2023, the association has a membership of more than 4,000 across England and Wales and works with 45 NHS provider organisations to offer support to Indian nurses.

Since its inception, BINA has helped 350 Indian nurses get promoted, with 20 of those in senior leadership positions, announced Mr Coumarassamy.

He told Nursing Times after the conference that BINA supports these promotions by giving individuals networking opportunities.

For example, the association has been able to link Indian nurses up with current NHS chief nurses and chief executives, who can provide mentorship and help prepare candidates for interviews.

He said: “BINA is a big platform [and] some of us [are in] very senior positions.

“If somebody is going for an interview for the deputy chief nursing officer [role], we know some people who are already chief nursing officers who can link with those people and provide focused support.”

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The number of promotions has more than tripled since last year’s conference.

Suresh Packiam, BINA’s general secretary and fellow founder, said in his 2023 conference address that BINA was set up to support nurses with their career progression.

He warned that, while many nurses from India were “already highly qualified” upon their arrival to the UK, many were having to “start all over again”.

Mr Packiam said: “They are treated like a newly qualified nurse but they are not.

“[They] have been a head of nursing in an organisation [or they] were a lecturer in a university.

“So things have to change.”

Suresh Packiam speaking at a lectern at BINA's annual conference in Leicester

Suresh Packiam

As well as support with career progression, BINA aims to provide “quality pastoral support” to nurses once they arrive in the UK, explained Mr Packiam.

He said that Indian nurses were often “suffering in silence” and that it was important for them to have access to diaspora networks so they can voice their concerns in confidence.

Mr Packiam added: “When I came to this country 20 years ago, we did not have this opportunity at all.

“That’s why we are keen, BINA is, to make sure that you can get that [pastoral support].”

It comes as the number of Indian nurses on the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) register continues to grow.

Last week it was revealed that India is now the biggest international provider of nurses to the NMC register – with 55,429 Indian nurses practising in the UK.

Andrea Sutcliffe speaking at a lectern at BINA's annual conference in Leicester

Andrea Sutcliffe

During the BINA conference, the NMC chief executive and registrar, Andrea Sutcliffe, highlighted this figure and said that the number of Indian nurses on the register had grown “very significantly over the last five years”.

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She noted that, between April and September this year, 7,223 nurses and midwives from India joined the register.

This was an 848% increase from the same period five years ago, when just 762 nurses from India had joined.

Ms Sutcliffe said that Indian nurses were making a “tremendous difference” by coming to work in the UK.

“The work that BINA does to support people coming into the country to work here is just so very, very important, because there’s so many more people coming in and they are making a tremendous difference, so it’s so important that we support them,” she added.

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