When nurses Eric Kakunaang and Salim Ahmed stepped foot in Scotland to start their new jobs and a brand new life, they had an old friend to meet them.

The pair was excited but tired after taking two long flights, and having a seven-hour layover, to get from their Ghana home to Edinburgh Airport.

So when long-time pal Solomon Oteng was there to give them a welcoming hug, it meant the world – especially because it was Solomon who was instrumental in them coming here.

Salim (pictured above, left, with Solomon, centre) and Eric (right) are the newest overseas nurse recruits to Balhousie Care Group, a private care provider with 26 homes across Scotland. Like many in the health sector, both independent providers and NHS, Balhousie is having to get creative with its search for nurses. A combination of Brexit, post-pandemic burn-out and sickness is hitting providers hard when it comes to filling vacancies.

One of the options for Balhousie is recruiting trained nurses from abroad – mostly Ghana and India – then putting them through the required training to comply with UK nursing regulations. It’s costly and can be complicated, involving waits for visas and dealings with the Home Office around immigration. On top of that, there is the issue of finding accommodation in a competitive UK rental market.

Nevertheless, Balhousie Care Group is pulling out all the stops. The company’s People Services team took on an extra staff member this year who deals largely with sourcing and settling overseas applicants. Resourcing Manager Jordan Russell, who heads up Balhousie’s recruitment, found a flat for Eric and Salim through a friend who works for a Dundee letting agency. He made up their beds, shopped for basics for them, and met them up at Edinburgh Airport with a welcome basket of Scottish goodies before taking them out and showing them some local sights. Their respective care home teams at the two Dundee homes they are employed at did the same, taking them for meals and shopping on their first weekend.

“We’re fully aware that this is a huge move for overseas staff and as a company we need to do everything to make that transition as smooth as possible,” said Jordan.

Solomon Oteng works as a nurse at Balhousie Pitlochry care home.

Solomon, who joined Balhousie Pitlochry in the summer and has settled in Perth, says of his own experience: “I was certain everything would be fine because I read a lot about the Scottish people. They are the most honest and friendly I have ever worked with and always willing to help.”

Why did he make such a big move? Solomon explains: “I came here because the pay is better and so are the training and careers prospects. Scotland is beautiful – so clean and so green. And through my work at Balhousie Pitlochry I get to understand the ageing process and how to deal with age- associated challenges.”

But back to that reunion. The three men trained and worked together in Ghana. Solomon’s experience has been so good that he told Eric and Salim Balhousie was searching for more candidates. They “grabbed the opportunity with both hands”, said Eric, who works at Balhousie St Ronan’s care home in Dundee. The pair’s arrival at Edinburgh Airport was caught on camera by a TV crew and shared on STV news and Good Morning Britain. Jordan and Solomon then appeared on BBC Radio Scotland to discuss his experiences and the nationwide shortage of nurses.

Salim’s move is bittersweet, however; he arrived on British soil just days before his wife went into labour with their first child. She gave birth to a boy on Salim’s second day at work at Balhousie Clement Park. Like Eric, Salim is in a Senior Carer role until he passes his UK nursing exams.

As well as sourcing nurses from overseas, Balhousie Care Group is talking directly to universities and adapting its marketing messages to appeal to people who may have retired from the NHS and/or want flexible working options.

Want to join Balhousie Care Group? Email us: careers@balhousiecare.co.uk or view our vacancies here.