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Costa Del GRH: Spanish nurses lined up to take pressure off county hospitals

By The Citizen  |  Posted: May 27, 2014

Portugues nurses start work at GRH in February. From left; Amie Turner (24) from Gloucester, Ana (correct) Figueiredo (27) from Portugal, Sara Fonseca (29) from Portugal, Tatiana Barroso (22) from Portugal, Kerry Cole (26) from Gloucester and Abi Guy (24) from Gloucester

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Health chiefs have flown to Spain in a bid to recruit more nurses to ease a “huge pressure” created by an extra 900 patients passing through accident and emergency this month.

Less than six months after employing some 40 Portuguese nurses, a recruitment team from the county’s hospitals trust will head to Iberia this week to begin the search for a further 60 to work at Gloucestershire Royal and Cheltenham General Hospitals.

An extra 30 patients a day were seen by accident and emergency staff this month compared to last year, contributing to huge pressures on the system.

The trust said its recruitment is in response to a staffing shortfall in acute medicine with a particular black hole in the number of doctors coming through and a shortage in all areas bar consultants.

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Chief executive of the Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Dr Frank Harsent, pictured, said: “We are seeing a huge number of people coming through A&E, almost an extra 900 patients this month compared to last year. That’s 30 more patients every day.

“It is not easy to turn on a tap for more staff. It is one of the reasons why we are not hitting our targets for A&E.”

Portuguese nurses, employed in a recruitment drive last autumn, have already started work and are winning rave reviews from patients and colleagues.

Around 50 interviews have been conducted with university graduates interested in working in the county. However the trust has not ruled out going to Dubai and the Philippines to recruit more skilled workers.

It has admitted to an over-reliance on agency staff, with a £1.5 million overspend. New permanent staff are being recruited monthly, with 20 new health care assistants starting work in the last month. But increasing admissions this month left staffing levels creaking.

In May last year, daily hospital admissions at both sites averaged around 330.

This month, there have been, on average, 370 people arriving for treatment.

On two days this month, there have been as many as 400 patients seeking help on each day. A combination of factors have been blamed, including reduced health services elsewhere and overloaded GP waiting rooms.

The four hour standard for patients being seen in A&E fell below the 95 per cent benchmark to 93.8 per cent in April. In May 2013, there were 10,224 patients at both hospitals. So far this month, there have been 11,100 patients arriving for treatment.

But one hospital trust success story has been its winter performance. Length of patient stays were down on last year, as were bed occupancy rates and the number of beds lost to outbreaks of sickness bugs.

Improvements have been seen as a result of better weather, additional funding and lower attendances.

But a shortage of doctors remains a key hindrance. Eric Gatling, director of service delivery at the trust, said: “It is not just attendances that are having an impact, but having enough doctors to see patients in a timely manner.

“A number of other hospital trusts are in a similar position, so we are effectively fighting over the same locums to work in our hospitals.”

Maggie Arnold, director of nursing, added recruitment was about getting the trust's name out there to all universities, not just those in the South West.

“We need to be spreading our wings to attract more people,” she said.

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  • Mike_Smith_Gl  |  May 28 2014, 10:33AM

    @RoadWombat, I would love to have a chat with you. Please contact me through our Facebook page, UKIP Gloucester Branch

    |   -29
  • Mike_Smith_Gl  |  May 28 2014, 10:31AM

    RoadWombat has made many points about UKIP's immigration policy that are spot on so I won't repeat them. However, I would add that much of this problem lies with this and the last Governments for not training enough British nurses, especially Labour's target of sending 50% of young people to University to get meaningless degrees, (obviously, a device to massage the unemployment figures) instead of providing vocational training. I appreciate that nurses have to be very special people with a sense of dedication and vocation but there must be plenty of young people amongst the unemployed with those special qualities who would dearly love the job. Of course, UKIP wants to concentrate more NHS spending on front line services such as nurses and doctors rather than top-heavy management structures.

    |   -29
  • RoadWombat  |  May 27 2014, 11:22PM

    The politics aside, I wish all of them a highly successful and rewarding career (as, I imagine, does everyone on here, whatever their political leanings). Good luck, ladies!

    |   -28
  • uk_socrates  |  May 27 2014, 8:11PM

    @Richardburton. Good point. It does seem a bit crazy that we have to go abroad to get nurses. We need a total revolution in our college and university systems. Qualifications in this country have become to expensive. Also how much did it cost to hire them? Did someone or a team have to fly out to do the interviews? Or was an off-the books consultancy/recruitment team given a blank cheque?

    |   -29
  • Richardburton  |  May 27 2014, 6:41PM

    Why are we going abroad to get nurses? Don't we have any trained nurses in Great Britain? Perhaps someone needs to do a survey on what we need and how many nurses needs to be trained to do it! We have over a million unemployed and yet we have to go abroad to get Nurses , aren't young people interested in a career? I don't give a damn about Ukip just the future of our country!

    |   -29
  • RoadWombat  |  May 27 2014, 5:29PM

    "UKIP will not like this story." Wrong again, I'm afraid, Selina, for these are just the sort of immigrants UKIP would like to see - hard working and beneficial. At the moment, however, the EU imposes what is frankly a racist system whereby if you come from Europe you get free and unrestricted entry, no matter who you are, yet someone with the same qualifications and qualities as these nurses, but from outside Europe, would have to jump through hoops to get here. It is that unfairness that UKIP are challenging - a level playing field for everybody with no preferential treatment just because you happen to be European. It is a pity that those defending the EUs racist policy aren't a little more fair in their thinking.

    |   -28
  • ghiabelinda  |  May 27 2014, 12:32PM

    ukip would welcome this, they are happy to have people here who want to work and pay their way like the rest of us, what they dont want are the scroungers, there is a complete difference, makes me wonder why the nhs is so stretched.

    |   -28
  • berted  |  May 27 2014, 10:12AM

    It's a good job that this country had the foresight to allow unrestricted immigration of the Celts, the Angles, the Saxons, the Romans, the Normans, the Vikings, the Huguenots, the Irish and countless others. All of them brought cultural and economic improvements. The diversity of our population is something of which we should be proud

    |   28
  • SELINA30  |  May 27 2014, 10:05AM

    UKIP will not like this story.

    |   32
  • Justica  |  May 27 2014, 10:04AM

    Quite right RoadWombat. To be selective means these young women with the work ethic are more than welcome. The people NOT welcome are criminals, working in gangs to carry out credit card fraud, scams and cable theft. All this whilst claiming benefits. To use the overworked term 'racist' is a smokescreen to allow a complete open door policy.

    |   -27