Demand for qualified nurses remains strong in many parts of the country, including East Anglia, where one hospital has been forced to turn its attention overseas in order to fill its vacancies.
West Suffolk Hospital has recruited 40 nurses from Portugal, the BBC reports, claiming that it was forced to do so because there are not enough registered professionals in the UK to meet demand for nursing jobs.
The establishment, which is situated in Bury St Edmunds, expects the nurses to arrive in February and March. It already has 1,000 nurses on its books and approximately 60 per cent of these are registered grades.
Nichole Day, executive chief nurse at the trust, told the news provider: "We have found it difficult to recruit due to a shortage of registered nurses coming through the system."
She explained that the additional nurses would be needed to cope with increased winter capacity, adding that many will be completing nine months in an acute hospital as part of their degree courses.
However, the Department of Health has refuted the suggestion that there is a national shortage of nurses, pointing to figures that show some 2,500 new nurses started working in the NHS in October 2012.
A spokesperson reportedly said: "It is up to trusts to recruit and ensure they have appropriate levels of staff. If they cannot recruit enough staff locally they may opt to seek nurses from further afield.
"Nurses from abroad have made a very valuable contribution to NHS patient care. However, they should only work in the NHS if they have proven their competence and language skills."
While the extent to which there is a shortage of NHS nurses may be debatable, the news does highlight the importance of working to attain the right qualifications to allow for registration.
To become a qualified nurse in the UK, individuals must be accepted for entry onto the Professional Register. However, under changes set to come in later this year, the minimum academic level for pre-registration courses for nurses will be a degree.
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