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Tuesday, 7 November, 2000, 10:34 GMT
Spanish nurses drafted in to NHS
There is a serious shortage of UK nurses
Up to 5,000 Spanish nurses are likely to become the latest contingent from overseas drafted in to tackle the staffing crisis in the NHS.

Health Secretary Alan Milburn will sign a deal on Tuesday at the Spanish embassy.

The first 75 Spanish nurses will arrive in the UK early next year.

This is about sharing best practice - we will learn from the Spanish nurses and they will learn from us

Department of Health
They will be assigned to posts in the North West of England such as Blackpool, were nurse vacancies have been unfilled for at least six months and other recruitment strategies have not worked.

If the North West pilot scheme works well, up to 5,000 Spanish nurses may eventually be recruited into the NHS.

Good English

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: "The nurses will already have to speak very good English but when they arrive here they will go on an intensive course which includes technical language classes.

"They will have individual mentoring and will be housed in nursing accommodation in the area in which they will work.

"This is about sharing best practice - we will learn from the Spanish nurses and they will learn from us."

Spain has been targeted because the country has large numbers of nurses who are trained to a high level, officials said.

Mr Milburn said: "This is an important agreement with the Spanish Government.

"As a result we will be able to recruit more skilled nurses for the NHS to treat more NHS patients, more quickly."

Mr Milburn said thousands of extra nurses were being trained to work in the NHS.

There were already 10,000 more nurses working in the NHS than when we came to office, he said.

"But today we face short term capacity problems in the NHS.

"This agreement will help us plug the gap which currently exists between our ambitions for the health service and the staff we have available to deliver them.

"As a result of this agreement we can use the skills of extra qualified nurses for the NHS right away."

Foreign recruitment

There were 7,500 foreign nurses working in the NHS last year, according to Department of Health figures.

As part of the Government's National Plan for NHS reform published last July, an extra 20,000 nurses were pledged by 2004.

Nurses from the Philippines and China have already been recruited into the NHS.

Figures to March 2000 from the United Kingdom Central Council for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting show a 48% year on year increase in the number of overseas nurses and midwives registering to work in the UK.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has warned that recruiting nurses from abroad is not a long-term solution to the staff shortages in the NHS.

An RCN spokesperson said: "Nurses from overseas have always played an important role in the NHS and the agreement today should help to fill at least some of the current 20,000 nurse vacancies across the UK.

"But recruiting from overseas can never be an alternative to investing in a strong home-grown nursing workforce."

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See also:

27 Apr 00 | Health
Foreign nurses drafted in to UK
14 Jun 00 | Health
More foreign nurses coming to UK
07 Sep 00 | Health
NHS drafts in Chinese nurses
09 Oct 00 | UK Politics
Filipino nurses 'not the answer'
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