Desperate NHS searches for 50 foreign nurses
Foreign nurses are being recruited to work in Lincolnshire as health bosses battle to cut costs while improving care.
At least 50 nurses will be brought in from Portugal, Spain and Greece as United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust desperately searches for reinforcements.
But a health watchdog has warned language barriers could lead to communication problems between staff and patients.
The news comes as another damning report claims county hospitals are not meeting care targets.
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The embattled trust, which has already cut £9.4 million from its annual spending bill of £420 million, is still trying to find another £13 million of savings. A raft of measures are being put in place to save money. There is also a focus on increasing staff numbers to reduce the need to rely on expensive agency workers.
The trust says its only option has been to look overseas because nurses from the UK would rather go and work in hospitals in large cities than in Lincolnshire.
Jane Lewington, chief executive at United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust, said: "This will be the saving grace to our hospitals.
"Our challenge is an operational one – we need more nurses, now.
"Our recruitment team is currently out in Portugal. It will then go to Spain and move to Greece in October.
"Getting these nurses in from Europe is something we just have to do. And this will have to continue. We cannot fill the gaps without international recruitment."
UKIP leader Colin Mair, who sits on the health scrutiny committee at Lincolnshire County Council, said: "My big concern would be if nurses lose their personal touch as a result of this move.
"Will these foreign nurses be able to understand elderly patients with strong Lincolnshire accents?
"If we are recruiting nurses from several different countries there is the added problem, they have all had different training."
Christine Talbot, chairman of the health scrutiny committee at Lincolnshire County Council, said: "The only issue here is the language barrier."
ULHT does not anticipate any language barrier because it says all foreign nurses will undergo an intense interview and testing process, which will include a language test.
Overseas recruitment is in addition to hiring staff from within the UK.
Since April, ULHT has recruited 165 nurses from the UK.
And 90 newly qualified nurses who trained with ULHT begin work in Lincolnshire next week.
Other cost cutting plans include offering treatments like CT scans out of hours, meaning patients spend less time in hospital waiting for treatment.
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