West Suffolk Hospital has recruited 40 nurses from Portugal, citing a shortage of registered nurses in Britain.
The Bury St Edmunds hospital said it needed the staffing reinforcements for additional winter capacity. The nurses are set to arrive in the country in February and March.
Executive chief nurse Nicola Day said the hospital had encountered recruitment difficulties because a “shortage of registered nurses coming through the system”.
Currently the hospital said it has 1,000 nurses, with 60% of them being qualified at registered grades.
Ms Day stated that the nurses from Portugal had all completed a four-year degree, spending the final nine months working in an acute hospital.
They will fill existing vacancies and reduce spending on bank and agency staff, she added.
But Karen Webb, Eastern regional director of the Royal College of Nursing, said the trust’s decision was the result of attempts to cut NHS costs by training more unregistered nurses.
She said: “I don’t doubt these Portuguese nurses will be excellent, but in our experience they will not stay in Bury St Edmunds, so it’s not a long-term solution.”
A Department of Health spokesperson disputed that there was a national shortage of nurses, claiming that almost 2,500 more nurses began working in the NHS last October.
But they added: “It is up to trusts to recruit and ensure they have appropriate levels of staff. If they cannot recruit enough staff locally they may opt to seek nurses from further afield.
“Nurses from abroad have made a very valuable contribution to NHS patient care. However, they should only work in the NHS if they have proven their competence and language skills.”