NEWLY qualified nurses at University College Chester have been snubbed by the Countess of Chester.
They have been told not to bother turning up for interviews for six-month temporary posts next week as the hospital can no longer accommodate them.
Students will leave the Parkgate Road campus as registered nurses in September and were hoping the interviews for temporary posts would lead to full-time jobs.
Only this week, college principal Professor Timothy Wheeler told The Chronicle at a press conference how 40% of the college population comprises trainee nurses.
He also said the college enjoyed working relationships with eight NHS Trusts, including the Countess.
Yesterday, a worried student contacted us to say how many students had received letters from Countess recruitment coordinator Dawn Antrobus saying interviews planned for next Tuesday and Wednesday had been scrapped - without any explanation.
College spokesman David Marshall was also shocked and could not understand why the Countess had pulled the plug on hopeful college students, saying the contract with the hospital was still running.
Chester MP Christine Russell was alerted to the matter yesterday and was investigating. More than 25 college nurses had applied for temporary Countess posts.
In her letter to students, Ms Antrobus said: 'I am writing to you to regarding your recent application for a position of a staff nurse as part of the careers day initiative.
'Unfortunately, the trust has made the decision to cancel the interviews scheduled for July 6 and 7, 2004.
'I do not envisage that this initiative will be reintroduced in the foreseeable future; however, if this changes, you will be contacted directly.
'We would welcome your application for any job currently advertised on our job sheet, as with any other candidate. If you would like your application transferred over to the waiting list, please contact me and I will keep it on file until a suitable position becomes available.'
Students were hopeful a temporary post at the Countess would have led to a full-time job, as many college students in the past have secured permanent jobs at the hospital.
But despite their upset, hospital spokesman Lorna Jones said the situation was a good-news story in that the Countess could not take them due to its high retention of nursing staff.
She said: 'Over the past two to three years, the number of nurses employed by the trust has increased significantly.
'This has been matched by a much lower turnover in our nursing staff.
'As a result, there are not the same number of nursing vacancies currently available as there might have been in the past.
'We do not therefore feel it would be appropriate or fair to mass-interview the students now.
'We will instead hold individual interviews in October, near the date when the students will qualify and when the hospital has an up-to-date picture of the vacancies available at that time.
'If and when nursing posts arise, we always first consider students from our local school of nursing & midwifery.
'In the meantime, the trust continues to produce a weekly job sheet and we encourage students to apply for any available positions in which they have an interest.'