Supporting strategies encouraging staff retention

It’s well known that the COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the already challenging issue of staffing shortages in the NHS.  In the past, the trusts have utilised agency and temporary or fixed-term workers to fill vacancies. However, focus is now shifting toward long term planning, with an emphasis on building and retaining permanent members of staff as outlined in the NHS People plan.

The NHS Workforce Alliance can support ICSs in implementing strategies to attract and retain their highly valued staff. We understand every ICS is different, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution; our team of workforce specialists are dedicated to supporting your ICS on a regional basis. When we work with our NHS colleagues, the first thing we do is listen. We have dedicated engagement managers for each ICS that understand your local requirements and staffing challenges and will work with you to implement actionable solutions.

There are a number of ways that the Alliance can support you in ensuring your new and existing staff remain in post where they are most needed, as well as delivering against the ICS People Function and ‘one workforce’ vision.

Occupational health and learning and training

The dedication, courage and passion shown by NHS staff throughout the pandemic is immense, but it has not come without significant pressure and stress. Earlier in the pandemic, Nursing Times reported that ‘mental health problems quadrupled in NHS staff during the first wave of Covid-19’.

In turn, we have a responsibility to ensure that the mental health and wellbeing of our NHS staff is being looked after. The Alliance can work with you to create a robust occupational health and employee assistance programme that includes services such as referrals and treatment, as well as preventative solutions such as psychological screening and health surveillance. Together, we can help you deliver against the first ICS People Function outcome (supporting the health and wellbeing of all staff) but more importantly, we can ensure your staff has access to resources that will keep them happy, healthy and in-post.

Access to mental health and wellbeing resources isn’t the only support our NHS staff need to feel valued in their current roles – training and development opportunities are essential to improving staff retention and upskilling the workforce to adapt to the changing demands on the health service. According to the NHS Long Term Plan, a lack of development and career progression is one of the main reasons people leave their jobs.

The Alliance can work with ICSs to develop a learning and training offering to support meaningful and personalised career journeys. We know that when organisations commit to investing in our staff’s development and education, they become more motivated to stay in the NHS. More importantly, access to continuous professional development equips staff to better provide high-quality patient care. 

Pastoral care for overseas recruits

International Recruitment provides an effective route to increasing the pool of qualified healthcare professionals in the UK. However, to enjoy the full benefit of additional capacity and see a return on investment, it is essential to have a pastoral support plan in place to help you retain overseas staff.

According to NHS Employers’ International Recruitment Toolkit, organisations with the best retention rates for their overseas recruits are those that have invested resource into providing essential pastoral care and support.

Exceptional pastoral care allows overseas recruits to not only feel empowered and confident in their new roles, but also to feel welcome in their new organisation and country.

The Alliance’s International Recruitment experts can work with you to create a pastoral care plan that both effectively integrates overseas recruits into your organisation and supports an NHS workforce that is as diverse as the population it serves. 

Support in reducing agency spend and growing substantive and bank staff

Reducing the reliance on agency workers and instead focussing on recruiting substantive and bank staff is key to retaining, recruiting and growing the NHS workforce for the future.

Our experts already work closely with NHS colleagues to bridge the rate gap and reduce the incentive for staff to choose agency over substantive and bank roles, however there are a number of other ways we can support our ICS colleagues in reducing the need for agency workers:

  • Assistance in developing your eRostering programme, giving you a more complete view of your requirements so gaps can be identified earlier and allow for long term planning, as well as ensuring substantive and bank staff are being used in the most efficient way possible.
  • Developing recruitment campaigns that highlight the benefits of working in substantive and bank roles, such as access to training and development opportunities and NHS pension schemes, to incentivise agency workers to join your organisation on a more permanent basis.
  • Connecting ICSs with suppliers awarded under the Workforce Improvement Services (WIS) framework, who can review your agency usage and provide expert analysis on the motives and benefits of workers who provide services via agency.
  • WIS suppliers can also support in realising the ‘one workforce’ vision across your ICS, ensuring your workforce is representative and appropriate for your local community.

Finding the right people couldn’t be more important for our health service, and it is essential that we create a workplace that values the dedication and commitment from our NHS staff.

The NHS Workforce Alliance is committed to helping future proof the NHS and build talent for the long term and supporting our ICSs in developing a reliable and competitive workforce.

If you would like to discuss your staff retention challenges, don’t hesitate to contact us.





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