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New ways developed to retain skilled NHS staff

12:00am | & Health

Half the battle in maintaining and building staffing levels within the NHS is not just recruiting new staff, but retaining the highly skilled staff it already has.

Now a scheme which has helped keep more than 1,000 nurses, midwives and other clinicians in the NHS is being rolled out to cover staff working in General Practice as well as hospitals.

A ‘transfer window’ enables staff to move within the NHS between areas while developing new skills. Rewards from local business partners, such as discount gym membership, and targeted mentoring for new joiners are among the incentives used to keep them.

Over the past two years the National Retention Programme (NRP) has seen experts work with 145 NHS Trusts to help them find ways to retain staff. Figures for the first 15 months of the programme show that more than 1,100 who would have left instead decided to stay. Detailed analysis shows that the scheme means the equivalent of 800 fewer full-time nurses have left the NHS since it started.

These reductions mean both national nursing staff turnover rates and clinical mental health staff turnover rates are the lowest they have been for five years. Now the successful programme is being rolled out to other NHS Trusts and expanded into General Practice as part of the NHS People Plan.

NHS chief executive Simon Stevens said: “As Europe’s largest employer, with 350 different types of job opportunity, the NHS has always been an attractive career option for caring, skilled and determined staff. 

“Three-quarters of our staff are women, but only half say the NHS is flexible enough as an employer. So as well as a need for action on areas such as pensions, it’s right that local NHS employers are now themselves increasingly taking common sense action to support, develop and retain their staff.”

As well as urging hospitals to adopt incentives to encourage employees to stay, NHS Trusts are also offering “itchy feet” interviews where staff get the opportunity to talk to bosses about why they might be considering leaving. In many cases, these enable the Trusts to develop new ways of working which address employee concerns and enable them to remain in post.

Prerana Issar, the NHS’s ‘Chief People Officer’, added: “With staff turnover at a five-year low, it’s clear that the NHS is competing well with other employers to retain the nurses, midwives and therapists that our patients depend on. The National Retention Programme has had a promising start and we are now looking to roll out this scheme to other Trusts and into General Practice. Getting the right workforce is not just about the number of people we bring in, but keeping and rewarding the team we have.”

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