A GROUP of 75 nurses and midwives from Ireland, Spain and Portugal have joined staff at the Great Western Hospital and healthcare teams across Swindon following a European-wide recruitment campaign.

Faced with a shortage of qualified nurses nationwide, health chiefs expanded their search across the Channel to boost staff numbers and ensure each employee can spend more time with each patient.

So far 36 nurses have started their new roles, some from abroad and others from England, and a further 39 nurses and midwives are due to begin their new roles later this month and in February.

Since a large-scale recruitment drive was launched last April, 270 nursing and midwifery staff have joined the Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

There are now 96 extra nurses and midwives on wards and in the community, raising the number to 2,611, but the trust is still looking to recruit around 50 more.

Alicia Hernandez, 23, of Cordoba, Spain, was hired in September following an interview in Madrid. She is now a staff nurse on the Linnet Ward Acute Medical Unit.

She was surprised at the amount of supervision and support she received from the onset, something she never had working in her native country.

“There is always someone on the ward to help me because the language is different and the protocols and procedures are different,” she said. “But it’s all a lot more organised here and we have got a lot more support than in Spain. The training is very useful.

“I found it strange that a hospital in the UK was holding interviews in Spain. I went to an interview in Madrid with my sister and she also got a job at GWH. My ward is very busy and there are a lot of different pathologies.”

Her ward manager Stacey Cotter has so far trained five new overseas nurses. She said: “This investment in nursing staff is one of the biggest changes I’ve seen since I started 14 years ago. It’s the way forward to improve our patient care.

“It’s been a different way for us to look at recruitment. Nationally there is a shortage of qualified nurses and we’ve been looking at creative ways to recruit staff and really sell what we have got to offer.

“We have had to adapt the way we work to overseas nurses’ needs. They all work alongside a more senior nurse. They have moved away from home and that is why we want to support them and help them feel part of a team.”

The trust is looking to recruit nurses to work at the Great Western Hospital and in its community hospitals and healthcare services across Wiltshire. To apply, call the recruitment team on 01793 604983 or visit www.passionfornursing.org.