HOSPITAL bosses travelled to Madrid to recruit 40 Spanish and Portuguese nurses to work at the Royal Bolton to help a shortage of staff, it has been revealed.

A group of matrons and HR staff visited the Spanish capital as part of a recruitment drive in a bid to attract qualified staff to come and work in Bolton.

The nurses – 33 from Spain, seven from Portugal — will start work at the hospital in the second week of August across a range of medical specialities.

Trish Armstrong-Child, director of nursing at the hospital, said problems with a lack of staff plus sickness among employees had led to some wards not having enough nurses per patients.

A report looking at the reasons why people were leaving the Royal Bolton, to identify any trends, will be presented at a hospital meeting in July.

Ms Armstrong-Child said: “We used an independent health firm as part of the recruitment process, and the resources they have immense, meaning the nurses are able to start almost straight away.

“The standard is absolutely the same. I will not say they are better than British nurses, I have absolutely every assurance that they are of a very high quality.

“There is a particular market for nurses in Spain, because there are no jobs.

“We are confident that the level of language is of a high standard — in fact, some of them have worked here before.”

She added the organisation was working to make it more attractive to students who train at the hospital in the hope they choose to stay in Bolton.

Hospital bosses announced a year ago that the trust announced planned to appoint 143 new nursing staff as part of a £2.5 million investment.

But bosses admitted recruitment had been an issues because of a lack of training places.

Then last December chiefs at the Royal Bolton were having to look abroad to fill vacancies.

Pre-registration nurses are now given the opportunity to apply for a job nine months before they qualify, and 27 of the current cohort will start work full-time in September.

Bolton West MP Julie Hilling spoke out about the problems in Parliament this week, and called on Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to do more to make sure there was enough nurses to staff hospital wards.

She told The Bolton News: “The government has cut 10,000 nurse training places, which means we’re having to go abroad to recruit when we have unemployed young people who are really suitable to be trained as nurses.

“That’s the scandal.”

The starting salary for nurses is just £21,388. It takes three years to complete a full-time nursing degree.

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.