A group of Portuguese recruits are being flown in to fill nursing posts for a year in the South West, it has emerged.
Thirty five certified Portuguese nurses will begin work at Cheltenham General and Gloucestershire Royal Hospitals from December for a maximum of one year, the Express newspaper reports.
The story has thrown fresh focus on the subject of trusts seeking oversease nurses to fill staff shortages, as revealed earlier this month by Nursing Times.
The Portuguese nurses are being hired to prevent a repeat of the staffing crisis at the Gloucestershire Hospitals Foundation Trust, which runs the hospitals, between January 2011 and December last year. It spent almost £1.4m on hiring additional agency staff to deal with absenteeism and a raised workload.
Trust chief executive Frank Harsent predicted an “unacceptable” repeat of this if it did not alter its approach.
Director of nursing at the trust, Maggie Arnold, said Portugal trained nurses more comprehensively than in Britain and they are very well qualified.
“It is important we support these nurses and continue with the recruitment drive,” she told the Express. “We have to be prepared.”
Jeannette Martin, the Royal College of Nursing’s south west regional director, added: “Effective long-term workforce planning now is essential to ensure that the UK has the right level of nursing staff without having to recruit from overseas.”
In May, it was reported that staff from Spain, Portugal and Ireland had been taken on to plug nursing gaps in Devon hospitals following a shortfall in candidates.
More than a quarter of the nurses paid by the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital – 72 out of 273 – were from overseas.
The South West story follows a national investigation by Nursing Times, which found at least a third of hospital trusts in England have turned to actively recruiting nurses from overseas as they struggle to keep wards adequately staffed.
Workforce experts said the findings were proof of the start of a new NHS registered nurse shortage, which has led some trusts to recruit dozens of nurses from across Europe and further afield.
Of the 105 acute trusts that responded to a Freedom of Information request by Nursing Times, 40 had actively recruited nurses from overseas in the last 12 months – leading to more than 1,360 nurses coming to work in England.
A further 41 hospital trusts said they planned to actively recruit nurses from overseas in the next 12 months.
In response to the Gloucestershire story, the Department of Health said that enlisting from overseas is nothing new and that foreign nurses make a “very valuable contribution” to NHS patient care.
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