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By Ian Dipple Friday 01 November 2013 Updated: 01/11 07:22
HOSPITAL bosses have been forced to look abroad for nursing staff because of difficulties recruiting.
Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust has just employed 20 experienced nurses from Spain to plug a number of gaps it has been unable to fill with British workers.
Another 40 newly qualified nurses have also been taken on which has helped reduce a backlog of nursing vacancies from about 100 at the start of the summer to around 50 which Bev Edgar, director of workforce and organisational development, said was normal for an organisation of their size.
As well as ensuring wards are staffed properly the move is also saving the Trust about £30,000 a week by reducing spending on agency nurses.
The first wave of Spanish nurses are expected to begin working within the Trust from n ext week.
Nationally there is a shortage of British nurses because of cuts to training places and the number of nurses reaching retirement age. The Trust is also finding it difficult to recruit, particularly at the Alexandra Hospital, due to the uncertainty caused by the countywide review of hospital services.
Chief executive Penny Venables said despite taking the vast majority of nurses graduating from the University of Worcester they were still struggling and she did not rule out looking abroad again in the future.
“With what’s happening across the EU we are finding there’s a lot of interest from places like Greece and Spain where there are economic challenges and we are attracting people on that basis which helps when we go out to recruit.”
A recent survey of 105 hospital Trusts by the Nursing Times revealed at least 40 had actively recruited staff from abroad in the last 12 months with another 41 planning to do so in the next 12 months.
Paul Vaughan, the Royal College of Nursing’s regional director in the West Midlands, said: “Our view is recruiting from overseas is not a sustainable long-term solution, but it’s a reasonable and pragmatic step if it means vacancies are filled and wards are fully staffed. We’d rather see that than staffing shortages that might put patient care at risk.
“This situation is predominantly a by-product of the ‘boom and bust’ nature of workforce planning in the NHS; when finances are tight, nurse numbers are among the first things to be cut, but with demand going up and care quality rightly under ever-increasing scrutiny, trusts are now finding they don’t have the number of nurses they need to deliver the service expected of them.”
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