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Offer flexible working to prevent NHS staff leaving, says guidance

Suggested measures include part-time working and job-sharing.
Older nurse

NHS employers should consider offering flexible working to stop skilled nurses and other healthcare professionals from leaving, according to new guidance.

NHS Employers, which represents health service employer organisations in England and Wales, has published the new guide on staff retention.

The call comes as government figures show 10.5% of NHS nurses in England left the health service in 2016, up from 8.3% in 2010.

Range of measures

The guidance states that one of the clearest ways organisations can show they are committed to improving staff experience is through flexible working, including part-time working, compressed hours, flexitime and job-sharing.

It also suggests offering flexible retirement options for those approaching retirement age, such as 'step down', where staff can continue working by moving to a new role with fewer responsibilities, and 'wind down', where

NHS employers should consider offering flexible working to stop skilled nurses and other healthcare professionals from leaving, according to new guidance.


Suggested measures include flexible retirement options. Picture: iStock

NHS Employers, which represents health service employer organisations in England and Wales, has published the new guide on staff retention.

The call comes as government figures show 10.5% of NHS nurses in England left the health service in 2016, up from 8.3% in 2010.

Range of measures

The guidance states that one of the clearest ways organisations can show they are committed to improving staff experience is through flexible working, including part-time working, compressed hours, flexitime and job-sharing.

It also suggests offering flexible retirement options for those approaching retirement age, such as 'step down', where staff can continue working by moving to a new role with fewer responsibilities, and 'wind down', where they remain in their current role but reduce the number of hours or days worked.

'By being as flexible as possible while still maintaining high standards of patient care, organisations can help staff balance their professional and personal lives and demonstrate that the organisation is a good place to work,' the guidance states.

'This will help to form a key part of an organisational retention strategy.'

Focus points

The guide, called Improving Staff Retention: a Guide For Employers, explores seven themes:

  • Looking at data in-depth to understand the workforce.
  • Developing organisational values and culture.
  • Supporting new starters.
  • Supporting flexible working.
  • Development and career planning.
  • Flexible retirement options.
  • Building line manager capability.

The guide complements a support programme being delivered by NHS Improvement, led by its chief nurse Ruth May, to improve staff retention in trusts across England and bring down the leaver rates in the NHS.

Dr May said: 'Retention of our staff is extremely important for patient care and that's why NHS Improvement and NHS Employers are working together to support the spread of good practice across providers in the NHS in England.

'We will continue to work closely with providers and our partner NHS Employers to encourage the health service to use the resources available, listen to examples of best practice and learn from each other on ways to make lasting changes for employers and employees alike.'

Immediate action

NHS Employers chief executive Danny Mortimer said: 'As the words "workforce crisis" continue to dominate headlines in relation to health and care, it was clear to us that we must waste no further time in finding ways to address it. 

'Retention of talented individuals, and especially our clinical staff, is just as important as recruitment to keep vacancy levels low - that’s why NHS Employers has been working with 92 NHS organisations to support their work to retain staff.

'While there is growing concern that the public sector pay cap and falling national investment in professional development are having an impact on retention of staff, there is also an acknowledgment by employers that there are other important factors in their control that influence whether staff choose to work in the NHS, and we must be alive to those factors.

'They include not only pay and reward, but also development opportunities, flexible working, work/life balance and the values that an organisation displays.'

The guide includes case studies and links to other resources.


Further information


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