The government has proposed allowing nurses trained outside Hong Kong to work in the city without having to take an exam, citing what it calls an acute shortage at present.

Nurses who were trained overseas currently must pass a licensing exam before they can register in the city. The proposed new policy is part of a document submitted by the Health Bureau to the Legislative Council (LegCo) for a meeting on Friday.

Public hospital nurses
Public hospital nurses.

According to figures from the Health Bureau covering 2018-2022, the number of non-locally trained nurses who registered to work in the city varied from two to 25 each year.

The Health Bureau cited an “acute shortage of nurses” and an ageing workforce in the city, which had 66,492 nurses at the end of last year.

“According to the Strategic Review in 2017, over 30% of nurses had already reached the age of 50 and beyond, and thus may be close to retirement age at the current juncture,” the government document to LegCo read.

Under the proposal, non-locally trained nurses could register in Hong Kong without having to take tests after working full-time in one or more specified organisations for a certain number of years.

Their employers would have to confirm that their work was satisfactory and that they were competent.

Covid-19 Mask Hospital Ambulance
Photo: GovHK.

The bureau also proposed allowing “limited registration” for nurses not trained in Hong Kong to work in premises including nursing schools, nursing homes and social welfare service units.

Medical staff shortage

The city passed legislation in October 2021 to allow non-locally trained doctors to work for the Hospital Authority to ease the shortage of doctors in public hospitals.

Secretary for Health Lo Chung-mau said in an interview with HK01 last week that Hong Kong had only recruited around 10 doctors trained overseas since the regulations were relaxed. The administration aimed to attract 100 doctors trained abroad, Lo said.

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Candice Chau

Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.