“Buy my nurses – you can work them harder”

by | 10 May 2023

The prospective candidate for the SNP's Dunfermline seat (if he can mount a coup against the incumbent) makes his money importing health care professionals from poor countries. What does his say about the SNP?

NOTE: I have been contacted by the owners of the company referenced in this article. I want to emphasise that nothing in this article is inaccurate or wrong. But I’ve agreed to add this note as a favour because the people involved in this company are genuine and long-standing activists working for Scottish independence and I most certainly do not want to harm rank and file activists. They recognise the wording on their website isn’t great and are going to review it. I therefore want to add some context.

First, as I point out in the article, nothing this company does is illegal. It is an approved ‘ethical recruiter’ for the NHS. Second and I absolutely want to emphasise that recruitment of non-EU NHS staff is not a practice necessitated by anything this company has done but because of a combination of Brexit and long-term workforce planning in the NHS. Equally, the part of the company’s pitch for customers quoted in the article which is most objectionable are not words they originated themselves but which they selected from a report from the Nuffield Trust. Finally, I simply do not want to leave any impression that I have any reason to believe that the people involved in this company are in any way bad, disreputable or shady. In fact it turns out that my family knows the family of one involved and I have every reason to believe they are anything but.
Because nothing I write is meant to be personal, because the life of an activist is a tough one and because this company is doing nothing illegal I am very willing to add this additional context to the beginning. But I stand by the basic point – it is ill-judged to offer the chance to recruit people who can be made to work longer hours than a domestic alternative as a reason to use your recruitment service. In politics, these things matter and are legitimate bases for criticism.


I hadn’t intended to write today until I caught sight of the fact that some in the SNP are trying to deselect the former party Treasurer who resigned because of the financial shenanigans the police are now investigating. But that led me on to something else, and it tells us a lot about both the state of public services and the mindset of would-be prospective SNP candidates.

First, I’ve been asking some local activists about what is going on in Dunfermline where at least some people are briefing that they’re aiming to deselect Douglas Chapman as their MP so they can replace him with someone less likely to have principles. And the picture isn’t clear.

It may be that this is just a group of local councillors on the make who fancy taking advantage of the turmoil in the SNP to promote one among them to the big salaries. But equally it may be that Humza Yousaf is trying to impose even more ideological cleansing in the party through local proxy Shirley Ann Somerville. Equally she could be freelancing on this one.

Yousaf can muster only 45 per cent of personal support from among his own voters. Somerville is the only person I know who could be demoted twice in succession and still be out of her depth. Neither is in a position to play strong-man, and if it is the local councillors then it looks like Yousaf and his cabinet are running scared of their own payroll.

That not a single person in a position of power realises that by continually backing a leadership at North Lanarkshire Council which has desperately tried to cover up sexual abuse, even after the abuser has resigned in shame, even while the people engaged in a cover-up are expelling those who blew the whistle, it makes them look like they are either weak or ethically unsound.

Unless this Dunfermline coup is made to go away I can’t see any version of it which isn’t a very bad sign for the party. Chapman has a fairly substantial majority in his seat but it is an old Labour stronghold and will be on their target list. Chapman could lose this seat on the kind of polling Yousaf is achieving for his party and that problem is exacerbated if the party chooses turmoil.

But in having a quick local check on this story I thought I’d have a look at the story of the candidate who is being touted as Chapman’s replacement. It is a man called Naz Anis-Miah, an SNP councillor. What is it about this candidate that makes his backers think he’s a better bet than Chapman? (Or, to be honest, I was trying to work out who his patron was.)

I’m sure this is all totally legal but if you lived in a world where human trafficking was legal enough that you could advertise it, the adverts would sound exactly like that

What it led me to was his CV – which turns out to be five years running an Indian restaurant and four years as Director of Operations for a company called AGB Resourcing. So what does that do exactly? It is basically a recruitment agency, but of a very particular type.

AGB specialises in sourcing you nurses and other healthcare professionals from outside the EU. I presume this primarily means targetting the health sectors of much poorer nations such as India and Pakistan and stripping them of their healthcare workforce for the purpose of harvesting a generous fee.

If that sounds wrong to you, Cllr Anis Miah can help to clarify why this sticks in your craw so much. This is the sales pitch for prospective customers taken straight from the company website with only very minor editing for length and context. If you’re the financial director of a hospital, you want to hire health workers from poor countries for the following reasons:

  • They cost less than other alternatives such as domestically trained nurses
  • They are more likely to remain employed in their post
  • They are more likely to work more hours
  • They are more sustainable domestically than attracting nurses from other NHS providers
  • They offer a greater return on investment

Phew, ain’t that a relief. You were expecting this was going to be utterly cynical, exploitative and horrible-sounding, weren’t you? Thank god it is actually totally cynical, appallingly exploitative and really vile-sounding.

Because translating this for what it actually means makes it much worse. “Hire my cheap Pakistani nurses because you can pay them less, they have nowhere to go so are trapped with you and you can squeeze them for longer working hours and basically treat them less well to get more than your money’s worth”. I mean, I’m sure this is all totally legal but if you lived in a world where human trafficking was legal enough that you could advertise it, the adverts would sound exactly like that.

So let’s get this in perspective – to make sure the SNP retains a Labour target seat it is replacing its well-respected local MP with a man who advertises the benefits of achieving greater exploitation by hiring nurses from poor countries? And that only to make sure that there is not a single person left in the SNP left who will not complacently go along with the sorts of activity that generate a massive police investigation?

To lead this coup the SNP is picking a man who has basically monetised his party leader’s failure to run the NHS competently

And to lead this coup it is picking a man who has basically monetised his party leader’s failure to run the NHS competently to the extent that nurses have been so badly treated that they’re walking away in droves so can be replaced by more pliant alternatives sourced from poor countries?

(Do you think I’m being unkind to Yousaf about the failure of long-term workforce planning in the Scottish NHS? OK, let’s blame it on his predecessor instead. That would be the woman he hand-picked to be his deputy.)

I truly don’t know what is going on in the SNP any more. It lurches from ill-considered move to ill-considered move. What is weirdest is that it doesn’t matter how bad the outcome from each of these steps is, still on it goes. The only conclusion I can draw is that the SNP leadership may really be mainly committed to a systematic purge of the party to boil it down to a tiny number of uber-loyalists.

(Please don’t tell me ‘it has 70k members’ because I’ve seen the pictures of how many activists it can turn out and it’s tiny. I know branches all over the place struggling to fill office bearer posts because of the state of disillusion with the party. Paper members don’t make parties healthy.)

So no, I wasn’t going to write today. And even when I saw this story and found out that the picture isn’t yet clear I still wasn’t going to write about it. But when the combination of this failing party, this failing leader, this awful CV and the sorry state of our public services come together like this, I think it is probably important to record it.

Now, off to check out the email that pinged in while I was writing this from a former party member without a blemish to his name who has been told that he’s being blocked from rejoining for no stated reason other than he is on an arbitrary blacklist because someone in power doesn’t like him…

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