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West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust set to hire nurses from Spain and Portugal to rescue Watford General Hospital staff shortages
A national shortage of nurses has forced the trust that runs Watford General Hospital to hire more than 80 new midwives and nurses from Spain and Portugal.
In April, West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust reviewed its staff levels across its hospitals in Watford, St Albans and Hemel Hempstead, partly in response to an inquiry into failings in Mid Staffordshire.
It discovered an extra 160 nurses were needed, plus another 20 to cover the busy winter period. In addition, the trust found up to 10 nurses would leave each month, which would also need to be accounted for.
In response to this the trust took on a large number of temporary staff, with the aim of eventually filling the roles with permanent nurses, costing £3.9million a year.
The trust has recruited 10 nurses from Ireland, and then in November senior nursing and midwifery staff travelled to Spain and Portugal and hired 84 new staff.
The next trip will be to Milan, where the trust is looking for 60 more nurses.
Antony Tiernan, director of corporate affairs and communications at the trust, said: "Our preference is for local people who have been through Hertfordshire University but it isn’t as easy as that.
"The number of nurses needed in the future is worked out years ago. The Department of Health and universities get together and predict how many nurses we will need and then offer that number of courses.
"There’s no point training people for the future if there will be no jobs.
"There was an estimation that the economy would change, there would be less money in the NHS and we would need fewer nurses. Consequently, there are not enough nurses being trained.
"In addition, concerns from Mid Staffs highlighted a lack of nurses on the ward, so suddenly you have a major drive to recruit more nurses and a downturn in the number of them."
Mr Tiernan suggested European countries had a "large availability" of nurses due to financial downturn.
Conversely, in the UK the Royal College of Nursing said the number of nursing courses on offer had dropped by 3,375 since 2010/11 creating a national shortage.
He said: "We work with an agency that is trained in recruiting overseas, to help find people and hold interviews.
"They are tested in written and spoken English, and have a special cultural induction to explain the nuances of what it is like to work in Britain, as well as the expectations and the challenges.
"It’s about knowing we have the right number of nurses on a ward with the right skill mix, 24 hours a day and 365 days a year.
There is real evidence to show that the right number of nurses has an effect on mortality rates, as well as patients getting fed and looked after properly."
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