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THE first group of nurses recruited in Spain to help plug a drastic shortage of staff at Southend Hospital will soon start on the wards.

A total of 19 male and female nurses from Spain, are currently nearing the end of their four-week induction programme to familiarise themselves both with the hospital and life in the UK.

Last week, the Echo revealed the hospital closed 12 beds across the trust in April as staffing levels meant they could not meet a new national quota of each nurse treating a maximum of eight patients.

The group recently visited Pier Hill to enjoy the sunshine during a break from one of their inductions.

Teresa Garcia, 24, from Valladolid, will be working in gastroenterology and explained why she had taken the opportunity to work at Southend Hospital.

She said: “In Spain the same job opportunities as a nurse just aren’t there and being here in Southend allows us to really develop and grow as professionals.

“It’s also a great opportunity culturally, being so close to London.”

Manuel Magro, also 24, from Huelva in Andalucia will be working in palliative care. He said: “Southend is very similar in size and feel to my home town.

“I feel really comfortable here and we’ve just had so much support and everyone we have met, in the hospital and around town, has been really polite and friendly.”

Last year the board agreed to recruit 120 nurses to help fill hard to recruit to roles.

A trust spokeswoman said: “The next group are coming over for induction in August, followed by a further group in September, this staggered approach allowing for settling in and ensuring the Spanish staff have the best support possible, which benefits them, the hospital and patients.

“The hospital is still very much committed to recruiting UK nurses as well.”

Cheryl Schwarz, associate director of nursing, said: “The trust is very pleased to have been able to recruit a number of qualified, professional and enthusiastic nurses from all over Spain, who will be working in many different departments across the hospital.

“They will be given a warm welcome by everyone and we hope they enjoy this opportunity.”