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Hospital chiefs defend recruitment drive in Portugal
HOSPITAL chiefs have defended a recent recruitment drive in Portugal amid claims the new staff have taken jobs which Wycombe nurses thought would be theirs.
The emergency department at Wycombe Hospital is set to be downgraded next month, and the unit’s nurses appear to be locked in a dispute with bosses over their future roles.
One nurse, who asked not to be named, told the Bucks Free Press: "We were led to believe our jobs were secure and we’d be given work at the expanded A&E ward at Stoke Mandeville.
"But they’ve now told us there will be no jobs there at all for the Wycombe A&E nurses and we are all being deployed in other departments where we don’t have specialist skills... They are just expecting to palm us off."
She also questioned why nurses were recently recruited from Portugal - saying they have filled some of the A&E roles wanted by up to 30 Wycombe nurses.
A consultation is ongoing and the Royal College of Nursing [RCN] union has been called in to represent the staff.
Victoria Couling, the regional officer for Buckinghamshire, said: "The RCN in the region has been working closely with our members at the hospital who have raised concerns about the consultation process itself, highlighting issues of poor communication and a lack of clarity about the process.
"It is also a process that appears to favour staff at the Stoke site above those at Wycombe. We have agreed with these concerns and have written to the chief nurse..."
The Wycombe staff were said to be ‘stunned’ when the issue arose, as they felt they had built up significant goodwill in recent years by doing rotation shifts at Stoke Mandeville.
Meanwhile, staff shortages mean they have also struggled to cope with demand over the summer months, and the nurse spoken to by the BFP said: "Members of the public know it’s inadequate and people are getting quite aggressive because of the long waits. It’s just been dire and morale is dreadful."
Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust [BHT], which runs the county’s hospitals, said this is one of the reasons why 40 new nurses have already been brought in from within the UK and from Portugal, with another 40 on the way.
Several hospital trusts have begun looking abroad to recruit new nurses due to a shortage of potential staff in the UK.
Spokesman Sarah Hills said BHT is still consulting with the Wycombe nurses and union representatives over the roles they will take up next month, and listening to concerns.
She added: "We are also committed to working with individual members of staff to identify suitable alternative posts in the Trust, according to preference.
"In addition, we working with Wexham Park Hospital, looking at the possibility of staff having access to posts in the reconfigured Wexham Park A&E Department.
"A number of nursing staff from the UK and Portugal have come into post over recent weeks and months and this is because it has been a clinical priority to ensure safe staffing levels at both Wycombe EMC and Stoke Mandeville A&E as we prepare for implementation of change.
"We appreciate receiving the views of our staff and are grateful to them for their continued hard work."
* As part of controversial changes at Wycombe Hospital agreed earlier in the year, the Emergency Medical Centre - formerly called A&E - is shortly to be taken over by GPs and run as a minor injuries and illnesses unit.
Thousands of its current patients will be expected to go to Stoke Mandeville or Wexham Park.