A DESPERATE shortage of nurses in the UK has forced South Warwickshire Foundation Trust (SWFT) to recruit abroad.
But claims have been made future forays overseas in search of nurses could be more difficult for trust bosses if Britain votes to leave the European Union this summer.
SWFT recently employed six theatre nurses from continental Europe after failing to fill the positions with home grown staff – a problem echoed across the country. They join the 1,447 hospital and community-based nurses already employed by the trust.
Last year the role was added to the Home Office’s shortage occupations list due to the lack of students entering the profession, the number of nurses taking early retirement and an increased demand on services.
SWFT bosses – which runs hospitals in Warwick, Leamington, Stratford and Shipston – say they are striving to fill positions in order to cut down agency nursing requirements.
It comes after last year’s bill for agency staff topped nearly £8million.
A SWFT spokeswoman said: “We are still recruiting from the UK where we can, however meeting the necessary staffing levels is of great importance and therefore we have looked at different opportunities for recruitment, including qualified EU nurses.
“At the moment there is a national shortage of UK nurses and therefore we are recruiting EU nurses for vacancies across the trust, alongside qualified and newly qualified UK nurses.”
The trust’s future employment of nurses from abroad remains uncertain with the referendum into whether Britain stays in the European Union taking place in June.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has warned the NHS will face an exodus of overseas doctors and nurses if the UK leaves the EU.
But pro-Brexit campaigners have rubbished the claims and say linking the future of the NHS to arguments over EU membership is nothing more than scaremongering.
The Royal College of Nursing, which is the world’s largest nursing union, says it does not know what will happen to current or potential European nursing employees if the UK leaves.
A spokesman said: “A lot of health and safety and employment protection legislation in the UK was negotiated at EU level.
“It is not clear what would happen to these arrangements if the UK left the EU, as this would be uncharted territory.”
SWFT told the Observer it would follow recruitment instructions from NHS England – a body which oversees the NHS – if the UK did leave the EU.