While the Insalud National health service in the Balearics continues in its bid to secure extra beds ahead of the flu epidemic which brought hospitals to a halt last winter as they buckled under the pressure and ran out of bed spaces, it has been revealed that Insalud does not have enough money to cover the costs of all the extra beds it needs and that Balearics nurses are finding the option of working for the National Health in the UK a more attractive option. British Health Secretary Alan Milburn is signing a deal to recruit up to 5'000 nurses from Spain. The move is seen as a bid to ease chronic staff shortages in the NHS. The deal, which is due to be signed at the Spanish embassy, will see the first 75 Spanish nurses arrive in the UK early next year. They will be assigned to posts in the North West of England such as Blackpool, where nurse vacancies have been unfilled for at least six months and other recruitment strategies have not worked. If the North West pilot scheme works well, up to 5'000 Spanish nurses may eventually be recruited into the NHS. The Balearic health service and the local government were locked in talks again yesterday in a bid to reach an agreement over the financing of the extra beds. The Red Cross has made 50 beds available, 30 of which will cost Insalud 13'000 pesetas per bed, but the remaining 20 are in a wing which is not used and the health service will have to cover the costs of staffing and operating the extra wing with 20 beds.

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