UK nurse shortage hits local healthcare trust.

NORTHERN Devon Healthcare Trust (NDHT) is spending thousands of pounds recruiting agency nurses from abroad.

The trust has already recruited nine nurses to work in wards at the hospital in Barnstaple, and has offered positions to a further 15 due to start work this summer.

The majority of the new recruits come from Spain, with others drafted in from Portugal and Ireland at a cost of around £2,500 per nurse.

Some of the agency nurses started work at the end of May, with the remainder joining wards at the end of last month.

The trust said it was one of a number of South West NHS Trusts to have set its sights on Europe after struggling to enlist UK nurses.

A spokesperson for NDDHT said: "There are more to come but we don't know how many.

"We're recruiting overseas because we haven't been able to bring in enough Band 5 nurses - the mainstay of the wards.

"We advertise nationally every month but haven't been able to get enough newly-qualified or established nurses.

"Most of our efforts go into UK recruitment, but the overseas option is a proving useful one if we fall short on numbers."

The trust said it had 25-30 nursing vacancies, many of which were likely to be filled by overseas candidates.

Foreign nurses are screened for their language skills at interview and complete the same written literacy and numeracy tests as UK nurses.

The spokesperson continued: "We offer the nurses on-site accommodation, a package of pastoral care and a robust induction programme to help them settle in.

"They have regular sessions with their manager to make sure they are getting on OK and managing the different systems."

The trust said it had secured eight new nurses at a recruitment fair in Manchester last week and would be attending a similar event in Glasgow in October.

It also said it was hoping to 'catch' new nurses qualifing this month and registered to practise in September.

"We're also working with NHS Professionals, the national agency which provides cover for staff absence/vacancy, which aims to take on another 25," added the spokesperson.

Tracey Roberts, Royal College of Nursing South West regional communications manager, told the Gazette that the RCN was currently undertaking a study to find out the extent of nurse recruitment issues in the NHS across England.

She said: "We know that trusts are struggling to recruit nursing staff, especially into roles which require specialist training and experience, and we are looking into how big that problem is."

"There are a very high number of nurses who are now reaching retirement age and who are choosing not to continue working as a nurse. We are losing their significant experience and the gap left is not being filled which points to a failing in workforce planning at a far higher level of responsibility than Trust level.

"We believe that Trusts are doing everything they can to get the right people with the right skills to provide the services communities across the region need and some are having to recruit from overseas to do that."

"We will be sharing our findings with Trusts across the region and working with them to highlight problems with Health Education England."