Essex: Colchester Hospital trust to recruit overseas again as it launches its own training degree

Colchester General Hospital.

Colchester General Hospital. - Credit: Su Anderson

The trust running hospitals in north Essex plans to recruit 30 nurses from India and the Philippines.

The additional staff, plus a further 30 each from Scotland and Ireland, will address a shortfall at Colchester Hospital University Foundation NHS Trust (CHUFT).

In total an additional 100 nurses will be appointed by March 2015, the trust hopes.

CHUFT is also setting up an 18-month course in conjunction with Essex University beginning in January for 20 of its unqualified staff, such as healthcare assistants, to become qualified nurses. The staff will work three days and be students for two days in the week.

It is not the first time the trust has looked overseas for nurses, and CHUFT came under criticism after a large number of nurses recruited from Spain left after less than two years to work in London.

In the past year 44 of the 82 nurses who left CHUFT had less than two years’ service, and the majority of these came from Spain.

However a trust board of directors’ meeting yesterday heard how lessons had been learnt from the Spanish experience.

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As well as challenges associated with large volume recruitment, such as embedding staff onto wards, contracts did not include clauses for new starters staying with the trust for a defined period of time.

Lynn Lane, director of HR, said it was illegal to add a minimum service clause to contracts, but the trust hoped to improve retention of staff through a number of different means including a better career progression path.

She said: “We have taken advice from recruitment experts so we know we can recruit really high quality staff, and they will tend to make wherever they start up home.

“They will have a network when they join us and won’t be isolated.

“We want to build our own talent pipeline.”

Dee Hackett, director of nursing, added: “We have been very careful about where we are going to this time.

“There is a big Filipino community in Colchester so we hope they are more likely to settle and stay here.

“I am very excited about the workplace degree, and these people already live and work here, they have families and are established.”

There is a national shortage of nurses, which is predicted to last for a further three to five years, which has been made worse by a need for higher staffing levels on wards.

There are 800 nursing vacancies in Essex alone, with an estimated 10,000 shortfall in England caused by a cut in the number of course places a number of years ago having a knock-on effect. The problem is expected to continue until at least 2017.

Ms Hackett said Scotland was being targeted because they had not cut the number of training places and so it was hoped there was a surplus of staff there.