Thousands of NHS doctor and nursing posts are lying vacant, trusts and health boards have said.
More than two-thirds of trusts and health boards in the UK are looking to fill positions with staff from abroad, a Freedom of Information request by the BBC showed.
The vacancy rate for doctors is 7% and for nurses 10% compared with the Office of National Statistics' average for the economy at large from between November 2015 and January 2016 of 2.7%.
The data shows that on December 1 2015, the NHS in England, Wales and Northern Ireland had more than 23,443 vacant nursing posts and 6,207 doctor vacancies - and 106 out of 166 trusts in the regions also responded with information on the increase in vacancies over the last three years.
Between 2013 and 2015, nursing vacancies had increased by 50% and open positions for doctors had risen by 60%, the BBC said.
Trusts and health boards were also asked if they were actively recruiting staff from abroad and 69% were, some travelling as far as India and the Philippines.
Vacancy rates in Scotland are published quarterly and therefore not available, the BBC said, but trusts north of the border contributed to information about recruiting abroad.
A Department of Health spokesman said: "Staffing is a priority - that's why there are already over 29,600 extra clinical staff, including more than 10,600 additional doctors and more than 10,600 additional nurses on our wards since May 2010.
"There are more than 50,000 nurses currently in training.
"However, we know that much more needs to be done to make sure we continue to have the right number of staff in training and on our wards so patients receive high-quality care 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
"That's why we are changing student nursing, midwifery and allied health professionals funding to create up to 10,000 more training places by the end of this Parliament."