A SOUTHAMPTON MP says it is a “scandal” that Southampton hospital bosses have been forced to recruit nurses from abroad.

John Denham spoke out after it was revealed that University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust (UHS) had hired 144 nurses from Portugal and Spain within the past year.

Ninety were from Portugal and 54 from Spain.

The figures were revealed almost a year after Southampton General Hospital had come under fire for a shortage of nurses by inspectors, which had left some patient unsupervised for long periods.

As part of a major recruitment drive launched by hospital chiefs, recruiters made two trips abroad and hired 90 nurses in a bid to bring the vacancy rate from nine per cent down to 2.5 per cent this autumn.

Mr Denham, MP for Southampton Itchen, said that the rise in overseas recruitment has coincided with a dramatic cut in the number of British nurses being trained in Hampshire.

He said: “While 144 foreign nurses have been recruited, the number of the nurses trained in local universities and hospitals has been cut by 115 a year since the Conservative-led Government came into power.

“While I am sure these Spanish and Portuguese nurses will do a great job, it seems daft that Southampton has to recruit abroad while local people can't get into nurse training.”

A spokesman for UHS said: “We extended our nursing and healthcare assistant recruitment drive overseas due to a shortfall in the number of UK applicants who responded to our local and national advertising campaigns last year.

“The 144 experienced and skilled Portuguese and Spanish nurses recruited during this process have integrated well into our 4,000-strong nursing workforce and have enabled us to ensure our wards are appropriately staffed ahead of what we expect will be a very busy winter period.”

The figures revealed by the Nursing Times showed Southampton recruited more foreign nurses than any other trust in the country.