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NHS retention: more needs to be done to retain new wave of nurses

Too much emphasis has been placed on retaining nurses eligible for retirement rather than those who are in the middle of their career, a conference has heard

Too much emphasis has been placed on retaining nurses eligible for retirement rather than those who are in the middle of their career, a conference has heard

CapitalNurse
CapitalNurse is a sponsored scheme to improve recruitment and retention in London

One third of nurses (14,131) who were working in the NHS in London in 2011 had left by 2017, Health Education England (HEE) figures show.

These individual leavers also do not show up in other NHS data as having secured jobs elsewhere in the health service.

HEE workforce manager for the business intelligence and informatic team Dominic Hunt highlighted the data at the CapitalNurse Expo at the Oval Cricket Ground, London last week.

Retention focus is usually on retirement

He said the first assumption may be that many of these departed nurses must have retired – but, in fact, around half were under 45.

‘Retention focus is usually on retirement and trying to extend the working life of nurses,' he told the event.

But, he continued, the bulk of nurses in London are newly qualified or only midway through their careers or working-age.

‘Don’t get me wrong, we need to look after the experienced nurses, we need to manage them,' Mr Hunt said.

'But there is a huge mid-career volume that we need to retain as they are the leaders of the next ten to 15 years, and also newly qualified nurses – there are more of those than the mid-career nurses.

‘So just looking at this tiny proportion, this tiny miniscule window of nurses eligible for or approaching retirement is missing the point.’

Increase to retirement age

Mr Hunt also suggested the retirement age and point at which people feel they can comfortably end their career is likely to increase, as the cost of the living in London rises.

It is therefore important to focus on countering the worsening retention of newly qualified nurses in the capital, he added.

In 2011 retention of newly qualified nurses after one year of working in London was 86%. But, by their fifth year, just 56% of those who had started remained working in the NHS in the capital.

In 2015, retention of newly qualified nurses after one year had fallen to 81%.

London exodus

Mr Hunt said: ‘One in five newly qualified nurses across London, who joined the NHS, have now left London altogether. It is worsening as time goes on and this is where work to maintain the new wave of nurses is needing to happen at scale.’

CapitalNurse is a HEE, NHS England and NHS Improvement sponsored scheme to improve recruitment and retention in London.

Last week's expo attracted around 350 nurses from across the capital.

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