Bedford Hospital halves its nursing shortage, but cancer diagnosis specialists still lacking

Bedford Hospital entrance

A Bedford Borough Council committee was told that Bedford Hospital has turned around a nursing shortage of ‘about 24 per cent’ six months ago to about 11 per cent expected after Christmas.

And in addition, the Hospital undertook a successful recruitment drive in Australia which has seen hundreds of nurses persuaded to give up the pleasures of the blazing Antipodean sun in favour of… Bedford.

“We offered posts to 237 nurses, which will see us have a surplus when those nurses fall into place,” said Deirdre Fowler, the director of nursing at Bedford Hospital, at Monday’s meeting of the Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

“And the first of those nurses start to arrive in December. So it’s a very positive outlook from a nursing perspective.”

A hospital spokesperson confirmed, after the meeting, that the hospital has made provisional offers of employment to 237 Aussie nurses, which is dependent on pre-employment checks.

And they are expected to take up their employment in batches over the next 12 to 18 months.

The new recruits won’t be thrown into the deep end, Diedre Fowler explained. They can expect to be ‘double rostered’ with other staff to orient themselves first.

She also said the hospital had been carrying out extensive recruitment in the UK, as well as having a successful ‘grow your own’ policy for nurses.

Hospital chief executive Stephen Conroy said there had been successes in doctor recruitment, too, including with A&E consultants. “We recruited two today,” he said on Monday.

But problems remain in recruiting some specialists, including in cancer diagnosis. “That’s my biggest worry,” he said, although adding it was “generally a good picture.”

Cllr Abu Sultan (Lab, Cauldwell), asked if a no-deal Brexit for the UK’s departure from the European Union at the end of October could change the situation with hospital staffing.

Mr Conroy said:  “Almost all our Spanish nurses left by February this year because they were expecting Brexit on March 31.

By Local Democracy Reporter David Tooley
with additional words by the Bedford Independent

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