Bosses at three hospitals in Cheshire hope a fresh drive to hire nurses from abroad will help to cut spending on agency staff.
Directors at Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust – which runs Leighton Hospital in Crewe, Victoria Infirmary in Northwich and Elmhurst in Winsford – have backed plans to embark on an international recruitment programme.
The scheme is expected to cost £425,000, and the trust hopes it will reduce its number of nursing vacancies, boost morale among its workforce and cut its spending on agency nurses in its busiest wards by 25 per cent.
The Trust has spent more than 100 per cent of its target budget on nursing every month since June 2018.
According to the most recent figures, Mid Cheshire Hospitals did see its annual staff costs drop by £192,000 in January – with the trust making greater use of ‘bank staff’ who work on a flexible basis, but at a lower cost than agency staff.
The Trust currently recruits from abroad on an ad-hoc basis, but the new scheme would see it use an international recruitment agency, to guarantee a certain number of nurses are hired and fully-trained by the time they arrive.
It is hoped this will be a more cost-effective approach – with new, qualified nurses able to begin work in six months, compared to the 12 months it currently takes to prepare international recruits.
Tracy Bullock, chief executive, said: “This is absolutely the right way forward. It is not simply a case of going out and recruiting – these nurses come ready-to-go.”
Trust chairman Dennis Dunn MBE said: “This is a compelling business case – we have to do it.
“But there is also something about the diversity of recruiting nurses from overseas and the benefits that brings to our workforce and to our patients.
“And if the agency doesn’t recruit the nurses – it won’t get the money.”