NHS trusts have been spending hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money on luxury foreign trips to recruit NHS nurses, many of which then leave their jobs after only a few months in the post.
A Telegraph investigation reveals that NHS managers went on almost 100 trips abroad last year alone to hire staff for the health service, a nine fold increase in overseas recruitment tours in just two years.
Many of the teams who took part in the search for foreign staff stayed in luxury hotels for up to a week at a time, on trips which cost up to £100,000 including costs to recruitment agencies in those countries. Yet 25 per cent of the staff hired in 2013/14 from abroad were no longer in their jobs by November of last year.
Up to eight NHS staff at a time were flown to countries such as Greece, Spain, Portugal and India at the expense of the taxpayer, with some missions failing to recruit anyone at all during their time away.
In response to Freedom of Information requests, trusts admitted to 96 overseas trips, recruiting almost 2000 foreign nurses compared with 27 excursions in 2012/13 and just 11 the year before.
Spain was the most frequented country, followed by Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Romania and Greece with some even heading to India.
Half of the trusts who responded revealed that 27 per cent of nurses recruited were no longer in their post by November 2014.
Figures releases last week suggested that NHS spending on agency staff has tripled in the last two years, with a fourfold increase in the number of nurses being recruited from abroad: 5,779 in the twelve months between September 2013 and the same month a year later.
And while their is growing concern about the scale of the nurse shortage in Britain, the details provided by the NHS trusts show recruitment teams staying in luxury hotels costing the tax payer on average around £3,000 per nurse hired. These figures exclude the cost of the salaries of the NHS staff making the trips or the nurses taking the jobs back in the UK who are often on larger salaries than British nurses, a previous report revealed.
One such trip was made by Aintree University Hospital Foundation Trust to Spain in July 2013 where four members of staff hired 20 nurses, only 11 of whom remained in their post by November 2014.
The Madrid trip cost £46,000 with staff saying in the Melia Avenida America Hotel which boasts a “spectacular” whirlpool, sauna and Turkish bath, and pampering treatment areas.
The trips were described as “increasingly desperate attempts” to tackle a national shortage of nurses by Dr Peter Cater, General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing. He added the sums being spent by the trusts were “ludicrous”.
And Joyce Robin, from Patient Concern, said: “It really beggars belief that at a time when money is so tight, anyone could think the answer to NHS recruitment problems is to send large groups abroad to stay in expensive hotels.”
A Department of Health spokesman said: “Since May 2010, we have 21,300 more permanent clinical staff working in the NHS, including 9,500 more doctors and nearly 8,000 more nurses on our wards.
“We’ve also invested in leadership training to create a new generation of senior nurses, and we’re running a campaign to get experienced nurses who’ve left the profession back to work – with over 1,300 having signed up so far.”