A GROUP of Spanish nurses have arrived in the country to work at Preston Royal Hospital, and Chorley and South Ribble District General Hospital.

They are among the first contingent recruited from Spain as part of a unique agreement between the British and Spanish governments to plug the gap left by a lack of qualified nurses in this country.

A total of 80 Spanish nurses will work in four North West hospitals under the pilot scheme.

All holding the Spanish equivalent of the UK Registered General Nurse qualification, they are here for two years -- firstly undergoing a 12-week cultural adaptation programme before moving on to the wards. They have been personally interviewed by senior clinical managers from the trusts to ensure that they measure up to the job and that their standard of English is high. Dame Pauline Fielding, nursing director for Chorley and South Ribble District General Hospital, said: "We are absolutely delighted to welcome our Spanish colleagues and we are confident that they will settle in well and enjoy their time working with us. We hope, too, that they will enjoy living in Lancashire.

"The nurses will be accommodated in private homes as well as hospital quarters and our aim is to promote cultural, as well as professional links, with Spain. By recruiting from Spain we will have more qualified nurses available quickly to care for our patients. We will continue to recruit at home and we are involved in a number of initiatives to encourage nurses and professional support staff who may have left the NHS to return to practice. Meanwhile, the nurses from Spain will be an invaluable help on our wards."

Pictured: Spanish nurses arrive in the area to take up posts at hospitals in Preston and Chorley.