The majority of HR directors plan to ramp up the recruitment of nurses this year as many admit their organisations lack the staff to meet demand.

Senior managers responding to HSJ’s HR barometer have revealed plans to recruit staff from overseas due to UK shortages.

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The survey reveals the impact on HR departments of the Francis report into the Mid Staffordshire scandal and the subsequent focus on patient safety.

Almost 90 per cent of HR managers have reviewed their whistleblowing policies since February 2013 and 36 per cent reported a rise in whistleblowing.

Fifty-three per cent of respondents said they were not convinced their organisation had sufficient staffing levels and 69 per cent said they expected to increase nursing numbers over the year. This rose to 91 per cent for acute trusts.

More than half, 54 per cent, said they planned to recruit staff from overseas over the next 12 months. This again rose for acute trusts - to 82 per cent.

The majority planned to recruit nurses and doctors from Spain, Greece, Portugal, Ireland and Italy as well as further afield.

Among those increasing staff, nearly a quarter said they aimed to fill more than 50 jobs.

Despite an emphasis on values and behaviour of staff following the Francis inquiry, 52 per cent of organisations said they did not regularly use aptitude tests or other assessments when recruiting.

Assessing values and behaviours was a key recommendation of the Francis report and many respondents said they wanted to develop a process this year.

The barometer also revealed a perception of worsening staff morale among HR directors compared with the previous survey in May 2013. Eighteen per cent said morale was poor or very poor compared with 12 per cent last May.

Howard Catton, policy director at the Royal College of Nursing, said: “Continued attacks on pay and the prospect of removing incentives, along with the mismatch of supply and demand, means people are going to have to look at the offer they are making to nurses.

“To reduce the offer flies in the face of the logic of what’s happening to the labour market and the forces of supply and demand we are seeing at play. There is an irony that it is market labour forces at work here.”