Foreign nurses in Essex recruited to fill training 'lag'

Nurse Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Foreign nurses are filling a gap left by British nursing training cuts, some people claim

More than a third of nurses in three Essex hospitals are from overseas due to a shortage of British-trained recruits, the BBC has learned.

Figures from a Freedom of Information request revealed almost half of nurses at Basildon Hospital taken on since April 2012 were not British.

Nurse educator Sarah Lee said cuts to training here had left a skills "lag".

"Importing help in may well be a feature of our health service going forward," she said.

Ms Lee, programme lead for the Adult Nursing degree course at the University of Essex, said cuts made five or six years ago had impacted the number of British-trained nurses available.

"In the wake of what happened at Mid-Staffordshire, trusts nationally realised they needed to work on their nursing levels to ensure quality of care," she said.

"But there's still a three year lead-in time for producing fully-trained nurses here.

"In the medium term, they have no other option than to recruit from abroad."

Essex's foreign recruits:

Image copyright PA
  • At Basildon Hospital, 45% of nurses and 35% of doctors recruited between April 2012 and October 2014 were not from Britain
  • Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford took on 470 recruits from overseas during that time, out of 1,434 doctors and nurses employed
  • And at Colchester Hospital, 29% of doctors and nurses came from overseas
  • The most popular countries for recruiting nurses are Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Italy and the Philippines.

Source: Freedom of Information request by BBC Essex

Karen Webb, a regional director at the Royal College of Nursing, said nurses from overseas had "always made an important contribution to the NHS".

"The current situation has been caused by poor workforce planning," she said.

"The government's decision to cut back on nurse training places has led to a real shortage of UK nurses.

"This has come at a time when there is a lot of demand for nurses and trusts are having to go overseas to recruit.

"We do expect the numbers of training places to increase but that doesn't help the current situation."

A Department of Health spokesman said: "Doctors and nurses recruited from abroad make a valuable contribution to patient care but they should only work in the NHS if they have the right skills."

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