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Leaked NHS email highlights flaws in nurse retention plan

Government’s pledge for 50,000 more nurses rests on ‘weak’ proposals on retention
Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking to nurses during a visit to the East Midlands and East of England Genomic Laboratory Hub at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge in October 2019, before the government promised to boost NHS nursing numbers by 50,000

Governments pledge for 50,000 more nurses rests on weak proposals on retention

Plans to boost nurse retention to help deliver the governments target of 50,000 more nurses by 2025 have already run into trouble, according to a leaked email.

Concerns about the government's nurse retention target were set out in an email sent from Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) workforce director Gavin Larner to NHS England/Improvement (NHSE) chief people officer Prerana Issar, and seen by the Health Service Journal (HSJ).

Retention plan does not contain milestones

Retaining 18,500 nurses already working in the NHS in England is a key part of the Conservation election pledge to have 50,000

Government’s pledge for 50,000 more nurses rests on ‘weak’ proposals on retention

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking to nurses during a visit to the East Midlands and East of England Genomic Laboratory Hub at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge in October 2019, before the government promised to boost NHS nursing numbers by 50,000
Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking to nurses at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge ​​​​​​in
October 2019, before the government's election promise to boost NHS nursing numbers by 50,000
Picture: Alastair Grant/PA Wire

Plans to boost nurse retention to help deliver the government’s target of 50,000 more nurses by 2025 have already run into trouble, according to a leaked email.

Concerns about the government's nurse retention target were set out in an email sent from Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) workforce director Gavin Larner to NHS England/Improvement (NHSE) chief people officer Prerana Issar, and seen by the Health Service Journal (HSJ).

Retention plan ‘does not contain milestones’

Retaining 18,500 nurses already working in the NHS in England is a key part of the Conservation election pledge to have 50,000 more nurses.

But Mr Larner's leaked email says the plan on retention does not contain 'trajectories or milestones', the HSJ reports.

Mr Larner also comments that proposals on how pay, pensions and leadership would improve retention are 'weak'.

Lack of detail on how pay will drive retention

Nursing workforce expert James Buchan, from the faculty of health and social sciences at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, said the concerns exposed 'the lack of a clear-cut starting point, process and target' for nurse retention.

He said it was notable that DHSC pointed to lack of detail on pay as a factor in the retention package.

'Having only recently come out of a seven-year pay freeze, there is an expectation that pay must be used more effectively to motivate and retain,’ Professor Buchan said.

RCN general secretary Dame Donna Kinnair said the government's commitment to voters of 50,000 more nurses must be met.

She said nurses expected government plans to recognise and value their experience, through both fair pay and respect.

People Plan will explain next steps, based on what is feasible

An NHSE spokesperson said retention rates have improved over the past year as a result of improved staff satisfaction with pay and working conditions, as well as and retention initiatives.

'Further gains are possible, and the People Plan, which will follow the budget, will set out the path to 50,000 extra nurses, based on evidence of what is and is not feasible and practical, including on retention.'

A DHSC spokesperson said the department is working closely with the NHS to deliver its commitment for the planned growth in nurses by 2025.


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