HUNDREDS of foreign nurses are being drafted on to hospital wards in Yorkshire as NHS chiefs urgently step up efforts to tackle a deepening staff crisis.
The Yorkshire Post can reveal scores of nurses from the Philippines are the latest to join the region’s hospitals due to increasing problems finding staff in the UK and Europe.
By Easter, more than 800 nurses from at least 10 countries will be in place following recruitment drives by 12 of the 15 hospital trusts in the region.
The recruitment problems are among the key drivers for the worsening financial crisis in the health service, with figures yesterday showing NHS trusts in England were £1.6bn in the red in the six months to September – the worst deficit on record. Trusts are expected to run up debts of £2.2bn by March as a report said high spending on expensive agency staff was “continuing to have an extremely detrimental effect” on the finances of NHS trusts at a cost of £1.8bn – double that planned. Ministers bowed to pressure last month to lift restrictions on worldwide nurse recruitment amid warnings shortages will prevent hospitals meeting new safety standards.
Last night the Royal College of Nursing warned the NHS would be reliant on overseas nurses for “years to come”.
Its regional director Sarah Dodsworth said: “Over recent years, nurse numbers have been cut in order to meet government demands to financially balance the books, whilst cuts in training places means that the UK is just not producing the nurses it needs. Failure to properly plan and invest will leave the health service reliant on overseas recruitment for years to come. We need sustained investment and a long-term solution that trains and retains the skilled staff we need to care for our own – not the sticking plaster solution that goes overseas to recruit nurses.”
Figures obtained by The Yorkshire Post show the Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS trust has already employed 120 foreign nurses in the last two years. A further 80 are due to join including recruits from the Philippines where the Bradford, and Doncaster and Bassetlaw trusts are also looking for more staff. Hull and East Yorkshire NHS trust, which has faced criticism from the Care Quality Commission over ward staffing shortages, has recruited a total of 116 nurses in the last two years from Spain, Portugal, Croatia, Romania, Holland, Italy and Greece, with more planned. The Mid Yorkshire trust is employing nurses from India amid plans to recruit up to 120 more overseas nurses in the new year.
Health Education England, which is responsible for the training and education of future NHS staff, said it expected growth in UK-trained nurses year on year until 2019, with a 23,000 increase over and above those leaving the service.
A spokeswoman said: “We need to ensure that future patient needs are met and that we have enough people with the right skills, values and behaviours available to work in the most appropriate settings.”