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Hospital chiefs go abroad to combat nurse shortage

The number of nurses and midwives leaving the profession has risen 51% in just four years. Picture: PA.
The number of nurses and midwives leaving the profession has risen 51% in just four years. Picture: PA.

Health bosses at the South Tyneside and Sunderland Healthcare Group are planning a New Year recruitment drive in the Philippines.

The trip is planned for February next year, with a view to attracting over 100 nurses to come and work in both South Tyneside District Hospital and Sunderland Royal Hospital.

Melanie Johnson.

Melanie Johnson.

Health chiefs say the decision is the result of joint working across the Healthcare Group and follows a strategic staffing review.

Deliveries are currently suspended in the maternity unit at South Tyneside Hospital after the special care baby unit was closed down because, managers say, there is a shortage of specialised staff.

It follows on from the long-term recruitment of Filipino nurses for over a decade in Sunderland.

The move signals a commitment to address some of the long-term challenges facing the nursing and midwifery workforce.

Sunderland Royal Hospital.

Sunderland Royal Hospital.

The new recruits will also work at Sunderland Eye Infirmary.

Hospital bosses say they will cover a range of specialities including emergency care, acute medicine and care of the elderly.

Melanie Johnson, executive director of nursing and patient experience for South Tyneside and City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trusts, said: “Nursing and midwifery is a complex, demanding profession. I am extremely proud of our existing workforce who do an exceptional job every single day.

“As we look ahead to 2018, we have a number of exciting plans to expand our nursing and midwifery workforce and the overseas element is just one important part of this.

South Tyneside District Hospital

South Tyneside District Hospital

“For many years, we have welcomed many Filipino nurses into the NHS in the region and there is already a very strong sense of community and belonging which I hope will help us attract even more nurses of the highest calibre to join our teams in South Tyneside and Sunderland.”

She added: “It is important, given the pressures facing our NHS and the demands on our existing workforce that we continue to explore all possible opportunities to attract more people into our organisations and I am confident that by working together as the South Tyneside and Sunderland Healthcare Group that we will be able to do just that.”

Both Trusts are already working with the University of Sunderland after launching the new nursing school in April 2016 and are expecting the first cohort of ‘home grown’ graduates who will be able to apply for permanent posts in 2019.

All new recruits from overseas will be required to meet the new registration process from the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) which sets the standards of education and training that overseas nurses will have to complete.

Recruitment is also taking place for any local candidates.

Roger Nettleship chairman of the Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign said: “We think they have the staff now to re-open the maternity services but we suspect that the Sunderland based executive team has no intention to re-open the special care baby unit and a full maternity service at South Tyneside District Hospital.

“They talk about recruitment from oversees but they took one of the best staffed maternity units in the north east last year, so why didn’t they maintain it with such a recruitment drive before if they though it was a problem.

“What the Trust executives have done has already meant that staff are accepting jobs at other hospital so how is this statement to recruit oversees going to solve anything other than an attempt to buy time to placate the people of South Tyneside who are angry at the loss of the their maternity services.

“Quite clearly this Trust Executive team should be held responsible for the dire situation in which parents to be have the worry and expense of journeys to other hospitals in the region. Our demands is that they talk to the staff and resume the service immediately for the population of South Tyneside.”