HOSPITAL bosses are looking thousands of miles away in a bid to recruit more nurses.

East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust is targeting Italy and Spain to offer jobs to up to 20 people.

The aim is to have them working at either Eastbourne District General Hospital or Conquest Hospital in St Leonards by April or May.

The trust is also considering making a return visit to the Philippines over Easter following a successful campaign there.

During 2016, a total of 275 new nurses were recruited to join the trust.

This included 99 nurses from overseas, including the Croatia and Romania as well as the Philippines.

The rest were 39 newly qualified members of staff and 137 nurses from around the UK.

Trust director of human resources Monica Green said: “While we are continuing to actively recruit within the UK, a national shortage of trained nurses means that, together with many other trusts, we will be undertaking overseas recruitment again this year.

“Recruiting to our nurse vacancies will mean that we will rely less on the use of temporary staff, saving on the costs associated with this.

“We use approved agencies to support our overseas recruitment and they source the candidates and undertake the preliminary vetting stage.

“Trust staff then conduct face-to-face interviews to ensure that candidates are proficient in their professional standards of care and demonstrate the trust’s values in their behaviour.”

There is a significant shortfall of nurses across the country.

It is believed there are approximately 20,000 vacancies and about 2,000 of these are in Sussex, Surrey and Kent.

Increased pressures and low pay have led to many nurses leaving the profession and not enough new recruits are coming through to fill gaps.

Hospitals are also having to increase nurse numbers because of changes brought about following the Mid Staffordshire hospital scandal and subsequent Francis Report.

Like other trusts, East Sussex Healthcare is battling to keep its finances under control.

As well as saving money, appointing permanent staff also gives patients better continuity of care.

Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust and Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust have also had successful recruitment campaigns overseas.

In recent years hundreds of nurses have been appointed to work in hospitals across the county.

East Sussex Healthcare is currently rated as requires improvement following an inspection by the Care Quality Commission and is currently in special measures.