BOSSES will look to recruit more European staff to the Royal Blackburn and Burnley General hospitals, in a bid to head off a shortage of British nurses.

Earlier in the summer, the government-backed Centre for Workforce Intelligence predicted the NHS was likely to have 47,500 fewer nurses than it needed by 2016.

In anticipation of the problems, Ian Brandwood, human resources director at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, said he was preparing to launch an overseas recruitment drive.

Several hospital trusts have looked to Portugal and Ireland to fill gaps in their workforce in the past year, and Mr Brandwood added: “We need to make sure we are going to the appropriate European venues.”

The move comes as a national survey by the Royal College of Nurses found nearly two-thirds had considered quitting their jobs in the past 12 months due to stress.

A total of 61 per cent of nurses questioned felt unable to give patients the care they would want to because they were too busy, while 83 per cent believed their workload had increased in the past 12 months due to staff cuts.

Nurses have also had a pay freeze between 2010 and 2012. At a board meeting last week, non-executive director Paul Fletcher asked what the trust was doing to keep its staff. Mr Brandwood said nurses could retire on full pension benefits aged 55, which made it difficult to keep them. But he added: “There’s no evidence to suggest staff are leaving the organisation now in any significant numbers, other than to seek promotion at other organisations.”

Jonathan Bowker, of the Royal College of Nursing Lancashire East office, said: “Overseas recruitment is becoming increasingly common within the area. The RCN would rather we were able to meet demand with homegrown nurses. We are very concerned that planning has been such that we are in this position .”