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Successful nurse retention scheme now rolled out to whole of NHS in England

RCN says ‘investing in the workforce reaps dividends’

RCN says ‘investing in the workforce reaps dividends’


The initiative includes ‘itchy feet’ interviews where staff can discuss why they might leave.
Picture: iStock

A scheme that aims to stop nurses from leaving the NHS will be rolled out to all trusts and general practices, NHS England announced today.

The National Retention Programme was introduced in July 2017 in 145 NHS trusts in England, with the goal of retaining their estimated 288,219 hospital staff.

Movement and mentoring

Features of the programme include: a transfer window that lets staff move to different areas within the NHS and develop new skills; mentoring for new starters; and incentives offered to staff to stay, such as gym memberships.

Analysis by NHS England shows that the scheme has resulted in the equivalent of 800 fewer full-time nurses leaving the NHS since the initiative began. 

NHS England also said nurse turnover is at its lowest rate for five years – 11.9% – as a result of the retention programme.

Vacancy rate drop

Medway NHS Foundation Trust was cited as an example of the initiative’s success.

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

The scheme will now be extended to the 80 or so remaining trusts in England, and also in general practices.

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said the health service must become a better employer to retain staff.

Positive action

Speaking at think tank the King’s Fund’s leadership and management summit in London today, Mr Stevens said: ‘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.’


Dame Donna Kinnair

RCN general secretary Dame Donna Kinnair said the retention scheme’s success showed the value of investing in nurses.

‘In recent years, the nursing profession has been left shrinking as intolerable pressure saw too many burnt-out and voting with their feet,’ she said

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

The RCN estimates there are currently 40,000 nursing vacancies in England.


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