Trips to hire overseas nurses increase ninefold

The number of hospitals sending scouting parties abroad in a bid to hire nurses is nine times higher than two years ago, new figures suggest.

The data, obtained by the Daily Telegraph through a Freedom of Information request to 160 NHS trusts in England, revealed there were 96 overseas trips in 2013-14, which recruited 2,000 staff.

The figure is a marked rise on the previous year, when there were 27 recruitment trips, and a ninefold increase on the 11 journeys made in 2011-12.

It comes amid fears of a nursing shortage in the health service and after details uncovered by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) estimated trusts will be spending an average of £4.2 million every year on agency nurse cover, based on current projections.

The paper’s figures suggested Spain was the most visited destination, with 39 trips in 2013-14, while others included 32 to Portugal, 15 to Ireland and 13 to Italy.

And the average costs were around £3,000 per nurse hired, with one body, Imperial College Healthcare Trust, making two trips to India in 2013-14, at a cost of £168,000 to hire 61 nurses.

But many nurses hired had left within months, with half the responding trusts revealing 27% of those recruited in 2013-14 were no longer working with them by November last year.

Joyce Robins of Patient Concern told the paper: “It really beggars belief that at a time when money is so tight, anyone could think the answer to NHS recruitment problems is to send large groups abroad to stay in expensive hotels.”

Previous research has suggested up to four-fifths of new nurses hired in the 12 months to September last year were from overseas, as hospital trusts in England filled a shortfall in registered nurses with 5,778 foreign staff, according to an investigation by the Health Service Journal (HSJ).

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