A health committee has voiced concerns over a foreign recruitment drive to boost staff numbers at Blackpool Victoria Hospital.
Members of Blackpool Council’s Health Scrutiny Committee said they want to see more young health professionals from the Fylde coast employed in the resort’s hospital after they were presented with the findings from the Keogh Report into mortality rates.
The standard of care and treatment at Blackpool NHS Hospital Trust was reviewed by a team of senior NHS staff after it was revealed the resort’s hospital was one of 14 which had higher than average mortality rates.
As reported by The Gazette this week, the Vic was one of three not placed into ‘special measures’, but the report did highlight a number of concerns – particularly around staffing levels.
In a briefing given to councillors by Pat Oliver, the hospital trust’s director of operations, she said: “The review team evidenced variations in staffing levels and skill mix as well as recruitment difficulties for nursing and medical staff.”
The trust has invested £1.5m in 2013 and 2014 to improve staffing levels and is currently looking at new and “innovative ways” of recruiting staff, the committee was told.
This includes running a “successful” recruitment campaign in Spain, Portugal and Ireland.
But one councillor said this concerned her because of the potential problems posed by the language barrier.
Coun Lily Henderson said: “The thing I’m worried about is that we are having to go to Spain or Portugal (to find staff) and I hope they speak English or speak of smattering of English.
“I wouldn’t want a doctor that couldn’t speak a word of English.”
Mrs Oliver replied: “As part of any recruitment they have to pass an English language test and any who fail do not get employed.
“Overseas staff have a two week classroom induction.
“They are tested on dressings and drugs and they don’t go on to wards until they’ve passed that.”
Coun Ivan Taylor added: “If we can get more people from the Fylde area to go into further education and into nursing, they are more likely to work at the Vic because they live here.”
Coun Martin Mitchell added: “If a patient has to ask a doctor questions and they are faced with one whose subject knowledge is fine but their grasp of the language isn’t as good, it’s hard for them to build up a dialogue with the patient.”
While the Vic was not entered into ‘special measures’ by the Keogh Report, bosses have vowed to make urgent changes in the coming year.