NHSI to tackle staff retention challenges with new programme

A major new programme to drive better staff retention in trusts across England has today been launched by NHS Improvement (NHSI).

With recruitment and retention adding to the huge amount of pressure already facing trusts in England, the regulator hopes the project will reduce the rates of people leaving the NHS workforce by 2020.

Led by NHSI, the programme will support trust leads and staff by providing a series of masterclasses for directors of nursing and HR to discuss ways to reduce staff leaving trusts. The organisation will also work alongside NHS Employers and look into how the current national retention programme can be built on and improved.

Specific, targeted support will also be made available for mental health providers to improve retention rates of staff groups, and a tool designed to help trusts understand why staff leave will be rolled out. A series of guidance through webinars will also be implemented to improve retention rates.

The programme will start with a group of 20 providers, with one cohort aimed at providers with above average nurse leaving rates and one at mental health trusts with above average leaving rates for clinical staff.

NHSI will also be visiting and offering providers direct support to analyse staff turnover rates and design a bespoke improvement plan targeting drivers behind why staff leave.

“We now have an opportunity to provide trusts with tailored support to persuade staff to stay in the NHS. It's the right thing to do and it's a real priority for me,” said Ruth May, executive director of nursing a NHSI.

May added that while there was no “magic bullet” or formula for getting this absolutely right and it is not all down to retention, trusts and NHSI had a major part to play in supporting health service staff and making sure they do not leave.

“Lots of trusts are doing it and have been doing it, but not necessarily with sufficient focus,” she added. “Now is the time we believe we have the resource to support the provider sector to do this. Our effort has got to be how we support them to make this a real focus.”

Saffron Cordery, director of policy and strategy at NHS Providers, welcomed the initiative, stating that workforce was a top concern for trust, and retention was central to this issue.

“The NHS is severely stretched and we need to keep and value our staff,” she said. “This is important for the quality, and particularly the continuity of care.

“Everything that trusts can do locally, supported by national measures, has to be a step in the right direction. We are pleased this initiative is focusing on areas where retention is most difficult, for example in mental health.

“However, until we address the underlying issues driving retention problems, including the pay cap and the unsustainable workplace pressures, these approaches will only have a limited impact,” Cordery concluded.

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