New Portuguese nurses at West Suffolk Hospital say they love the area

Happy nurses in Bury St Edmunds, West Suffolk Hospital.

Happy nurses in Bury St Edmunds, West Suffolk Hospital. - Credit: Gregg Brown

Figures suggesting that overseas nurses are struggling to settle in west Suffolk disguise what has actually been a success story for West Suffolk Hospital and its new Portuguese recruits, the hospital has said.

Yesterday, the EADT reported that about 18% of nurses hired during a recruitment trip to Portugal in 2012/13 have already left the trust.

However, the figures “do not begin to tell the whole story,” said Jan Bloomfield, executive director of workforce and communications at the hospital, while nursing staff who relocated to Suffolk from Portugal have spoken of the warm welcome they received in the community.

“The figures relate to the first year we recruited from Portugal, so it is natural that it would take a while for some nurses to settle,” Ms Bloomfield said. “Even so, the numbers of nurses leaving was no more than we would normally expect. In fact, more than 90% of nurses recruited from Portugal over the past two years remain in post so our recruitment of Portuguese nurses has been a real success story and we are very proud of them all here in Bury. They have settled in brilliantly.”

Following a national shortage of home-grown nurses, West Suffolk Hospital recruited 82 qualified nurses from Portugal as their degree course is very similar to the UK. Many also have particular expertise in the care of older people, ideal for the population of west Suffolk.

The hospital worked hard to help the new nurses to acclimatise, holding informal get-togethers and setting up a buddy system. There was also the benefit of west Suffolk’s strong Portuguese community, with its dedicated shops and cafés in Bury St Edmunds, Brandon and Thetford.

Catia Gomes was joined by her husband six months after arriving. The couple now say they feel “very settled” in Bury St Edmunds and are expecting their first baby.

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Ana Vilela, who has been promoted to stroke specialist nurse, said: “I feel very happy and like a valued and trusted member of the team.”

Meanwhile, for Tiago da Silva, Bury has enormously improved life for the better after his parents decided to join him in the UK and also found jobs in the town.

“There is not a single reason to complain about working at West Suffolk Hospital,” he said. “I’ve been given lots of opportunity for personal development and will soon be moving to a new role in the Emergency Department. For me, this is the right place to me, and my mother and father are also very happy here.”

Solange Gaspar, who works on ward F6, added: “Everyone has been very supportive from the very beginning, which was very important to me as I did feel homesick when I first moved.”

Ms Bloomfield added: “As with our home-grown nurses, our Portuguese recruits are of a very high calibre and are enjoying working at West Suffolk. They have been warmly welcomed by all of our existing staff and really well-received by our patients, who appreciate the kind and compassionate care they provide.”