Spanish nurses are being recruited to help fill vacancies at Sussex hospitals.

A campaign was launched this month to find specialist nurses willing to come and work at hospitals in Worthing and Chichester.

Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs both organisations, says the move is in addition to its usual hunt for staff across the county and UK.

Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals has also recently advertised for nurses in Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy.

East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, which held a successful UK recruitment campaign last year, has no plans at the moment to look further afield.

Western Sussex Hospitals has launched the search because it says there is a national shortage of specialist nursing staff, such as those qualified to work in areas such as intensive care.

Director of nursing Cathy Stone said: “We have significantly increased our nursing numbers in recent years, but the health needs of our local population are increasing all the time.

“We must ensure that we have the right number of staff to give our patients and their families the care that they need.

“In addition to our ongoing recruitment efforts, we also occasionally look overseas for experienced nurses.

“We will be doing so this year, and we hope that we will be able to recruit excellent new colleagues to work on our wards.

“Increasing the number of permanent staff we employ is fundamentally about improving the quality of care – nurses who work on the same ward all the time can get to know their patients and colleagues better, and can provide better care as a result.”

Candidates from abroad are pre-screened for language skills, and then all are interviewed by trust staff to ensure that all recruits can communicate well in English.

A further recruitment drive in Portugal is planned for spring.

Teresa Budrey, south east regional officer for the Royal College of Nursing, described the move as “indicative of a drastic shortage of qualified specialist nursing staff in the area”.

She added: “While international recruits can be a valuable addition to a domestic workforce under strain, relying on overseas recruitment to plug the gaps is simply not a realistic long-term option.”

Previously, nurses have been recruited to hospitals in Sussex from Ireland and the Philippines.