A HEALTH trust is appealing for Asian and ethnic minority nurses to apply for jobs, after new figures show there are just 35 in East Lancashire.

The Department of Health is launching a £4 million campaign to fill 22,000 vacancies for nurses in England and is especially targeting ethnic minorities.

National figures show only 1.4 per cent of all NHS nurses are Asian or black, although they account for four per cent of the workforce.

Even in Blackburn and Darwen, which has an ethnic population of 18 per cent, they only account for 4.5 per cent of hospital staff, apart from doctors.

Mohammed Ravat, community relations officer with Blackburn, Hyndburn and Ribble Valley Trust, said the biggest problem was recruiting qualified nurses.

Auxiliary posts attract more non-white applicants -- at present there are 44 auxiliaries, 9.4 per cent and ethnic minority doctors account for about half of the workforce.

Mohamed said: "Traditionally, Asian women are expected to get married and start a family by the time they are 20. In the Pakistani community, many men don't like their wives working, they prefer them to be at home looking after the children.

"So although some young women join as auxiliary nurses, by the time they are 20 they are leaving the workplace, before they qualify.

"Things are changing and many young women have different expectations and don't want to get married when they are 20. I'm sure long-term that will have an impact."

Blackburn hospitals are using an apprentice scheme to bring the numbers up and take on 12 16-year-olds every year, including six from ethnic minorities. Mohamed plans to use successful nurses as role models when trying to recruit in the community.

He's hoping to get publicity, possibly on the local Asian rad90 stations that have annual temporary licences and also plans to go into schools to recruit school-leavers. He said: "Almost 20 per cent of the local population is Asian and we need to reflect that. I would like 20 per cent of our staff to be Asian, although it will take at least five years to achieve it."