Severe staff shortages in care homes across the country is forcing many providers to bring workers from overseas.
Brexit, Covid and staff burnout has placed an already creaking care system under added pressure.
There are now calls for a radical overhaul of how the most vulnerable are looked after.
Balhousie Care Group, Scotland’s largest private care provider, has been recruiting nurses from Ghana and India for a number of months.
They find them accommodation, pay for visas and put the new recruits through the necessary exams here to comply with UK nursing registration.
Eric Kakunaang has come from Ghana to work as a nurse at St Ronan’s Care Home in Dundee.
The 33-year-old has been working in small village hospitals and a 1000-bed teaching hospital in his homeland since qualifying in 2017.
“It’s a big opportunity and we’ll grab it with both hands,” said Eric.
“It’s more or less like you are taking care of the aged, people with dementia and we’ll do our best to help the residents in the nursing homes.”
Eric arrived in Scotland with his friend Salim Ahmed, who worked in A&E at the same teaching hospital.
Salim said: “At the beginning I was quite anxious, especially leaving your family and friends behind and coming here but at the end of the day it’s for the greater good so we got here, we’re happy.”
The pair made the 5000 mile journey to help with Scotland’s chronic shortage of care staff.
On arrival at Edinburgh Airport, they were met by old friend Solomon Oteng, who has been working at the Balhousie care home in Pitlochry since June.
He passed his OCSE nursing exam at the first attempt in August and encouraged Eric and Salim to come to Scotland too.
Solomon said: “I am delighted to see them both. I told them how good Scotland is and the need for more staff in care homes.”
“I love my job here. We don’t have care like this in Ghana. I have settled in well to Scotland and at the care home where the staff have been amazing.”
The staffing crisis extends to hospitals too and has led to more and more homes and health boards searching for workers overseas.
Jordan Russell, resourcing manager with Balhousie Care Group said: “We’re in the midst of a crisis at the minute in nursing and care, the care sector in general and the NHS but the social care sector, the private care sector is hit just as badly with Brexit and covid and burn out and a whole mixture of things.”
He added: “We are recruiting from universities directly and we have competitive packages to attract nurses but nurses are leaving the sector as quickly as they come in so there is a need to look at the overseas market.”
Earlier this year, rules were relaxed allowing foreign workers to come to the UK to help resolve the care crisis.
The GMB union says there are 170,000 vacancies in the care sector across the UK with 17,000 of those in Scotland.
A survey by Scottish Care, which represents the independent social care sector in Scotland, found that 88% of providers have faced recruitment problems.
Caroline Deane, Scottish Care workforce policy and practice lead: “It’s the increasing pressure which I think is being seen across the whole of health and social care. Pharmaceutical colleagues, the ambulance service, we know that everybody is facing this shortage of staff and the pressure it puts on the existing staff just increases. There has to be a radical change in how we deliver care in the future.”
More workers from overseas will arrive in Scotland in the coming months to help care for the most vulnerable in society.