Policy briefing

Guide sets out strategies for healthcare staff retention

A new guide on staff retention lists best practices, with suggestions about flexible working and pension options as well as support during menopause

A new guide on staff retention lists best practices, with suggestions about flexible working and pension options as well as support during menopause

Picture is abstract illustration showing three figures held within a hand. A guide on staff retention lists best practices, with suggestions including flexible working and pension options as well as support during menopause.
Picture: iStock

Essential information

Retention of staff is a key issue for the NHS and a crucial factor in securing a skilled and sustainable workforce for the future. Organisations must ensure new and existing staff are supported and encouraged to remain, NHS Improvement says.

Making the NHS the best place to work is a central commitment in both the NHS Long Term Plan and the NHS People Plan.

However, there are major shortfalls in nursing staff, with 40,000 nursing vacancies in the NHS in England alone, according to the RCN.

What’s new

Best practice approaches developed by NHS trusts to improve staff retention have been published in a new guide.

The document, produced by NHS England, NHS Improvement and NHS Employers, directs readers to resources developed by NHS trusts that they can download and adapt for staff in their own organisations.

Suggestions include developing a retention strategy from available templates that all staff can understand and embed in their work, and ways to create a sustainable workforce.

Understanding the profile of the workforce by undertaking an age-profiling exercise and finding out why people leave through exit surveys are suggested, as are flexible working that supports a better work-life balance, and different rostering approaches to support this.

The document also highlights the value of using experienced staff as mentors for new nurses, ensuring staff and managers understand flexible retirement options and supporting staff during the menopause.

Expert comment

Picture of Abbe Robertson, lead nurse for clinical and professional development at Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust. A staff retention guide lists best practices, with suggestions including flexible working and pension options.Abbe Robertson, lead nurse for clinical and professional development at Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust

‘It is vital we give nursing leaders across the NHS the opportunity to acquire the skills they need to follow management and performance processes, to be prepared to have “challenging” conversations and to show empathy in supporting staff who have work-life conflicts that affect their commitment to work.

‘I believe the most important approach described in the document is in relation to career planning and development, particularly when it reduces some of the barriers to staff moving within the workplace. Having recruitment processes such as the “transfer window” mentioned in the document allows staff to feel supported in recognising that a particular role may not be suited to their skillset and that they could consider an alternative.’

Abbe Robertson is a member of Nursing Management’s editorial advisory board

Key points for senior nurses

  • Reduce vacancy and drop-out rates by simplifying the recruitment process, perhaps using assessment centres. North Tees and Hartlepool Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust cut its vacancy rates by using all-day ‘recruitment centres’ to improve the process of integrating new employees.
  • Consider the preceptorship offered to newly qualified staff. Some trusts have increased it to two years.
  • Consider an ‘annual hours’ contract system to give staff more flexibility when booking time off and how the potential of annual hours might be maximised by supporting staff to pursue aspirations and ambitions such as nursing abroad.
  • Investigate the possibility of implementing new e-rostering software and improve rostering practice generally.
  • Ensure staff know and understand the opportunities available to them, perhaps by developing a brochure or running career clinics.

Find out more

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