NHS worker retention scheme to be rolled out to all trusts and general practice

A scheme aimed at stopping doctors and nurses leaving the NHS will be rolled out to all trusts and general practice staff, NHS England said.

Analysis of the National Retention Programme shows the turnover of NHS nurses and mental health hospital staff is at its lowest rate for five years, the body said.

It was first introduced in July 2017 and has seen experts work with 145 NHS trusts to retain their estimated 288,219 hospital staff.

A “transfer window” lets staff move to different areas within the NHS and develop new skills, new starters are offered mentoring and rewards from local businesses such as gym memberships are used as incentives to stay.

Figures for the first 15 months show more than 1,100 nurses, midwives and clinicians have stayed working when they would have left, NHS England said.

The scheme will now be extended to the around 80 remaining trusts and into general practices.

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens will tell the King’s Fund think-tank’s annual leadership and management summit in London on Wednesday: “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 prompting hospitals to adopt incentives to stay, Trusts are also offering ‘itchy feet’ interviews where staff get the opportunity to talk to bosses about why they might leave.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock will also be at the event in central London and will answer questions from audience members.

NHS England said Medway NHS Foundation Trust, which had been struggling to retain emergency department staff, has seen its vacancy rate drop from 65% to 14% in a year after introducing a period of guided clinical practice and offering experienced nurses the chance to attend relevant programmes at local universities.

Prerana Issar (pictured), NHS chief people officer, said: “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.”

Donna Kinnair, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “In recent years, the nursing profession has been left shrinking as intolerable pressure saw too many burnt-out and voting with their feet.

“This work demonstrates that investing in the workforce reaps dividends and achieves sustainable services for the benefit of patients.

“As well as bringing a new generation through education, the NHS is right to make keeping the best nurses a priority – flexible working, investment in training, fair pay and the right staffing levels go a long way to doing that.”

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