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Somerfield Hospital nurses among 350 Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells Trust hopes to recruit this year

Almost a dozen nurses left without a job following the sudden closure of a private hospital have been offered roles by NHS bosses as part of efforts to tackle a growing recruitment crisis.

BMI Healthcare announced in March it was closing The Somerfield Hospital in London Road, Maidstone on April 1, leaving some 62 people facing redundancy.

It claimed the 38-bed hospital was losing patients to other healthcare providers, causing "financial challenges".

The Somerfield Hospital in Maidstone closed on April 1
The Somerfield Hospital in Maidstone closed on April 1

Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust, which runs the two major public hospitals in west Kent, said it had received 36 expressions of interest from staff after the closure was announced and had since appointed 10 registered nurses.

However, the trust admits attracting qualified professionals to its Pembury site remains a "critical" issue, and plans to recruit 350 nurses in 2019/20 - more than double the 140 posts successfully filled last year.

It comes after it emerged earlier this year there was a gap of "over 50% registered staff" at Tunbridge Wells' emergency department off the back of a busy Christmas period, and that employees from other departments were having to be drafted in and trained up to help plug gaping holes.

The trust said at the time it had a "robust" recruitment plan in place and claimed its current vacancy rates were in line with other NHS trusts due to a national shortage of trained nurses.

Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust is looking to recruit 350 nurses this year
Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust is looking to recruit 350 nurses this year

Director of workforce Simon Hart told a recent meeting of the trust's board that the majority of the 350 nurses it hopes to attract this year would be from overseas, via two recruitment agencies.

He assured colleagues he was "reasonably confident" of achieving the target, while it was also revealed that work was ongoing to recruit graduating nursing students.

More than 20,000 patients came through Somerfield Hospital's doors between July 2015 and June 2016.

Of the 3,205 inpatient and day case episodes recorded in that time, 60% were NHS funded.

Nearly a third of the 17,019 outpatient attendances were NHS funded, with the rest being private patients.

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