Nurses in England will be offered supermarket discounts and cheap gym memberships to persuade them to stay in the NHS
A scheme that aims to stop doctors and nurses quitting the NHS will be rolled out to all trusts and GP practices in England, it was announced today.
A smaller trial of the scheme rolled out in a number of NHS trusts managed to, in 15 months, persuade 1,100 members of staff to stay in their jobs, the NHS said.
The programme allows staff to transfer to different areas of the health service, offers mentoring to newcomers and even pays for them to attend university classes.
Staff have even been given supermarket discounts and cheap gym memberships, with some saving up to £1,000 ($1,228) a year on their shopping.
The programme will now be extended to the around 80 remaining trusts and be introduced into GP practices for the first time.
Nurses will be offered supermarket discounts to persuade them to stay in the NHS (stock)
Prerana Issar, chief people officer at the NHS, 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.’
The National Retention Programme was introduced in July 2017 and targeted at an estimated 288,219 hospital staff across 145 NHS trusts.
An analysis of the scheme also revealed the turnover of NHS nurses and mental-health hospital staff is at its lowest rate for five years.
Nursing turnover rates have fallen from 12.5 per cent to 11.9 per cent, while mental-health staff rates went down from 14.3 per cent to 13.4 per cent.
Medway NHS Foundation Trust, which had reportedly been struggling to retain emergency-department staff, has seen its vacancy rate drop from 65 per cent to just 14 per cent in a year.
This is after the trust introduced a period of guided clinical practice and offered experienced nurses the chance to attend relevant programmes at local universities.
And health officials claim that since the scheme was rolled out in Birmingham, hospitals have kept staff at a time when others were losing them.
WHAT IS THE NHS’ NATIONAL RETENTION PROGRAMME?
NHS England’s retention programme was launched to help persuade staff to stay within the health service.
It was introduced to 145 NHS trusts in England in July 2017.
The scheme allows participating trusts to offer staff a ‘transfer window’, where they can move to other areas of the NHS to develop new skills.
It also encourages regular appraisals and one-on-one meetings with management to help staff feel supported.
The programme aims to support NHS staff’s health and wellbeing by encouraging them to take breaks and stay hydrated throughout the day.
When it comes to working hours, it offers ‘flexibilities’ like ‘step down’, which allows staff to reduce their level of responsibility while staying within the NHS.
‘Wind down’ also lets staff reduce their hours as they approach retirement but continue in their post.
Pension benefits include ‘retire and return’, where staff can request to retire, claim their pension benefits and then go back to work.
The programme also includes late and early retirement schemes.
Some trusts even give their staff promotions and discounts, such as money off their supermarket shop and cheap gym membership.
An analysis of the programme revealed the turnover of NHS nurses and mental-health hospital staff is at its lowest rate for five years.
Within 15 months of the scheme’s launch, more than 1,100 nurses, midwives and clinicians stayed within the health service when when they otherwise would have left, according to NHS England.
And amid the nursing shortage, 800 fewer nurses specifically have left since the scheme began.
Nursing staff turnover rates have also dropped from 12.5 per cent to 11.9 per cent.
In July 2019, NHS England announced it would be rolling the programme out to the around 80 remaining trusts.
It will also be introducing the scheme to GP practices for the first time.
Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust cut the turnover of its nursing staff by two per cent, The Telegraph reported.
The trust even launched a discount website to give its more than 2,300 users access to promotions at everywhere from Tesco and Boots to Morrisons and B&Q.
Speaking at the King’s Fund think-tank’s annual leadership and management summit, NHS England’s chief executive Simon Stevens said: [The NHS is] 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.’
Mr Stevens went on to say that while three quarters of NHS staff are women, only half of them describe the health service as a flexible 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,’ he said.
‘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.’
As of October 2018, there were around 41,000 nurse vacancies in NHS England.
An analysis shows that since the scheme began, 800 fewer nurses have left.
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.’
Rolling out the National Retention Programme is just one way NHS England is looking to expand its primary care and GP services.
The NHS Long-Term Plan will see an extra £4.5billion ($5.5bn) being invested into the health service by 2023.
GPs from across England are set to recruit an army of 20,000 new staff, including pharmacists and physiotherapists, who will work alongside them.
This will hopefully allow GPs to treat the patients who need them most, as well as offering longer appointments.
HOW BAD IS THE NURSING CRISIS?
The shortage of NHS staff in England is continuing to worsen, official figures show.
Figures published by the regulator, NHS Improvement, for the April to June period showed that 11.8% of nurse posts were not filled – a shortage of nearly 42,000.
According to Health Education England, around 33,000 of these positions are filled temporarily by agency staff – an unwelcome extra expense for local NHS trusts.
A report by three leading health sector think-tanks estimates that if demand rises as predicted, the NHS will need 250,000 additional staff by 2030.
But if skilled workers cannot be attracted from abroad the shortage could reach 350,000 – roughly a quarter of the 1.2million workforce.
Experts say low pay and long hours are two of the main factors which make finding nursing staff difficult. This, paired with student debt, makes the profession unappealing for young people.
Of those quitting, more than half are under 40, with many citing stress and rising workloads for being behind their decision to leave.
In January the Royal College of Nursing warned the NHS was ‘haemorrhaging nurses’, as around 3,000 more nurses quit their jobs than started new ones in 2017.