THE Royal Bolton Hospital is struggling to fill staff vacancies — and could look abroad to find new recruits.

The problem of staffing levels was raised by the Bolton NHS Foundation Trust board of directors, who say filling hospital vacancies is an issue across the UK.

In July, the trust announced plans to appoint 143 new nursing staff as part of a £2.5 million investment.

Trish Armstrong-Child said that recruitment had been a problem.

She said: “There are a lot of trusts increasing their workforce and there is no doubt we are fishing in a very small pond.

“I think it’s because we have got to saturation level in terms of trade nurses. We need to look at going abroad.

“What we also need to look at is the recruitment process. We need to look at whether this organisations as an attractive place to work and we should look to our university to help with that.”

Health bosses were not able to say how many vacancies there are at the trust but say they have been actively recruiting since June.

So far, 53 new staff nurses have started at the Royal Bolton Hospital.

Another 29 nurses have been offered jobs and are currently going through pre-employment checks.

There have also been another 76 new health care assistants start work at the hospital since June with another 36 undergoing checks.

The trust has since said there are no immediate plans to recruit abroad.

Miss Armstrong-Child added: “All adverts have gone through NHS jobs and we have not advertised abroad.

“It is difficult to be specific how many more are required as this depends on turnover.”

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) say understaffing is a problem across the NHS and that trusts should encourage retired nurses to return to work.

Janine Dyson, RCN North West Officer, said: “Moves to increase frontline nursing staff are welcomed. But a long-term solution is needed.

“The RCN wants to see a national and consistent co-ordination of workforce planning, and a reversal in the cut to the number of nursing student places commissioned.

"At the same time, employers should encourage retired nursing leaders to return to the profession, as well as look at other initiatives like flexible retirement.”

It is not the first time the Royal Bolton Hospital has recruited staff from abroad.

In 2002, 24 nurses from the Philippines arrived in the town to fill a shortfall of nurses.

Many have settled in Bolton, made it their home and are still a vital part of the team at the Royal Bolton Hospital.