A BATTLEPLAN has been drawn up to recruit more nurses at Basildon Hospital after it was found to have 183 vacancies.

The chronic shortage comes at a time when Southend Hospital’s own lack of staff forced it to close off beds.

Both hospitals are looking abroad to plug the gap with Spain and Portugal the latest destinations for headhunters looking for talent.

It is also hoped the recruitment drive will cut the huge amount of money spent on employing temps, with Basildon spending £12.9million last year and Southend Hospital spending £1million a month on agency staff.

A spokesman for Basildon Hospital said: “There will always be a need to use agency nurses; however, we are working to minimise this as much as possible.

“Over the coming months, we will be recruiting newly qualified nurses, who have trained at the hospital, and will attend job fairs across the country.

“A team of officials will soon be dispatched to Spain in the hope 50 nurses will be recruited from there.”

Southend recently hired 19 Spanish nurses to ease the pressure after previously having to shut 12 beds because it could not meet national guidelines of having one nurse to eight patients.

The hospitals are recruiting from abroad due to a lack of available staff in England and want to be prepared now in advance of the seasonal winter rush of extra patients.

The Basildon spokesman said: “As there will always be nurses who choose to leave the trust, it is important we plan recruitment activity so we continue to have the number of nurses we need.”

Proposals to keep hold of staff include meeting with new starters to talk about their intitial experiences working with the hospital, monthly reports on employees who have stayed on for at least a year and giving people more opportunities for progression.

Location is always a problem

CONCERNS have been raised previously about the struggles hospitals in south Essex face when it comes to recruiting nursing staff.

Karen Webb, East of England regional director of the Royal College of Nurses, told the Echo in April that the location of Basildon and Southend was a major reason.

She said: “It’s in a location where nurses can just go down the road and get paid London Weighting.

“What they’ve done is quite sensible, to go abroad looking for capable staff.”

She said overseas recruitment did not have an impact on local trainee nurses, but added better training could help stop hospitals from having to look abroad for staff.

She added: “Health Education East of England, the local education training board, needs to invest more in on-the-job training for already qualified nurses.”