NURSES from some EU countries leave Swindon after a “year or two” for the “bright lights of Bristol”, a hospital chief has said.

He told councillors that nurses flown over to the UK from the Philippines had a better track record in “making a life” in the town.

Kevin McNamara, director of strategy at Great Western Hospital, said: “What we find for the truly international recruitment, so places like the Philippines, they’re a very good cohort of staff for coming in and making a life in Swindon.

“What you find with some countries, particularly in the European Union, they will be attracted to Swindon because we’re offering good jobs etcetera. But after a period of time – a year or two – they get attracted to the bright lights of Bristol or Bath or other places. They will travel down the M4 and they tend to move in groups.”

According to the latest hospital figures, 195 non-British EU citizens joined the GWH trust as members of staff between 2014 and 2017.

The hospital said in reports shared with councillors this week that Brexit represented an “unwelcome uncertainty” – adding to difficulties posed by tougher language tests for EU nurses and a £1,000 immigration charge levied on non-EU NHS recruits.

Mr McNamara’s comments, made a year before the UK is expected to formally break from the EU, came as the borough’s health scrutiny committee heard about plans to attract and retain more health workers in Swindon.

Gill May, executive nurse at Swindon Clinical Commissioning Group, said they were exploring ways of employing GPs on more flexible contracts that allow them to work in different organisations and roles. At GWH, “golden hello” payments had been offered in a bid to plug an 11 per cent shortage in nursing staff.

The hospital needed to look at "new ideas" to attract staff, GWH's Mr McNamara said. "At the moment the international market is saturated, the EU market is saturated. We know the trusts that are going abroad and fishing in the same ponds."