René Seifert, co-founder of TrueProfile.io, suggests that now is the time for healthcare regulators and NHS recruiters to turn to Blockchain-enabled identity verification services as post-Brexit ‘Global Britain’ takes off
Staff shortages across the UK’s healthcare sector have been well documented, with a recent report forecasting that staff shortfalls in the NHS are expected to grow from over 100,000 in 2018 to almost 250,000 by 2030.
With Brexit now fully underway, the NHS is expected to close this gap by opening the door to an influx of healthcare professionals from across the globe.
As a result, NHS recruiters and healthcare regulators will be faced with a significant challenge: ensuring that they take advantage of global healthcare talent to address staff and skills shortages, whilst making sure candidates’ professional and academic credentials are authentic.
Until now, professional document verification has been a long, costly and complex process with a high rate of unverified candidates and fraudulent applicants slipping through the net, particularly in the UK healthcare sector. Just recently, there was a high-profile case where a senior NHS boss gained his job by falsely stating he had a degree.  These instances do little to aid the NHS in achieving their ambition of becoming one of the foremost healthcare organisations globally.
So, what can the industry do to tackle this challenge head-on and in turn support the transformation of the post-Brexit NHS?
The challenge: Balancing efficiency and security
Before offering a solution, it is important to look at the extent of the challenge facing the healthcare sector in more detail.
It’s clear that there’s a pressing need for the recruitment of international healthcare professionals. However, this presents the difficulty of authenticating the credentials of any candidate from overseas which is often a lengthy process that can be difficult to perform without competent regional knowledge and contacts. Add to this the complexities of a language barrier and the process becomes near impossible. In fact, even when it comes to verifying native candidates, the recruitment process typically requires a high resource and time investment, leaving a number of verification applications unverifiable.
It’s evident that the sector needs to streamline its recruitment processes in order to benefit from the advantages offered by an influx of overseas healthcare professionals. However, it is crucial that this does not come at the expense of a high-quality verification process for candidates’ professional and academic credentials. Not only are employers and regulators in high-risk sectors legally obliged to verify the professional documents of their applicants, but this practice is designed to mitigate risk within the industries they operate in. No one wants to receive treatment from or work alongside an unqualified or fraudulent individual, especially within the healthcare industry when the associated risks can have fatal consequences.
It is crucial that an improved verification process is at the forefront of NHS recruiters and healthcare regulators’ thinking in the post-Brexit recruitment strategy. Particularly as insights from the DataFlow Group have revealed that the highest trend for forgery over the last five years has been found among allied health professionals and nurses.
So, as Brexit comes into force, how can the sector make sure it taps into the pool of overseas healthcare professionals in an efficient yet secure way?
The solution: blockchain-powered verification
This is where we at TrueProfile.io believe that blockchain has the potential to revolutionise the UK healthcare sector in the post-Brexit world, and we are already enabling regulators, authorities and employers around the world to verify the credentials of applicants and store these for future validation on blockchain.
A blockchain is a shared, distributed file which records transactions. Each transaction is added as a block and is stored decentralised in the chain. This means that no central party has control over its content, and nobody can tamper with the records because every member has to agree to its validity and can check the history of record changes. This is not the first time blockchain has been mentioned in the context of healthcare, particularly when it comes to medical records being stored on the blockchain to provide absolute proof and confidence that they cannot be altered.
However, blockchain technology is an innovation in the context of document verification and the recruitment process and its implications for post-Brexit Britain could be enormous. For instance, if overseas applicants can access a secure portal to upload and verify their professional documents and data onto blockchain, they will be able to have a form of portable credentials. UK regulators, HR managers and NHS recruiters will then be able to view and verify candidates’ credentials against the blockchain, saving valuable time in the hiring process. Due to the decentralised nature of blockchain, this scenario offers a ‘verify once, use forever’ approach to verification, further reducing the strain on those in charge of hiring applicants from overseas. In addition, by offering an online and on-demand primary source verification (PSV) solution, it will also ensure that candidates’ credentials are authentic and issued by an accredited institution.
So, for regulators and NHS recruiters, blockchain can help to drastically streamline the verification process by eliminating the continual churn of verification requests on employers and educational institutions every time a healthcare professional applies for a new role. In addition, this also eliminates the risk of hiring unqualified, fraudulent individuals, ensuring that patients and co-workers are protected.
For candidates themselves, the process is also expedited as their credentials only need to be verified once before being saved on the blockchain. They can then share this with potential employers at any point during their careers, rather than having to be verified each time when applying for a role.
Blockchain helps solve staff and skill shortages in the NHS
Skill and staff shortages have been a burden on the healthcare sector for many years. Coupling this with the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, the sector is clearly under further pressure.
With emerging technologies, such as blockchain beginning to be innovatively applied across different industries, there is light at the end of the tunnel. What is immediately certain is that now is the time for industry regulators and NHS recruiters to turn to blockchain-enabled document verification services in order to empower their hiring process as post-Brexit ‘Global Britain’ takes off.