NHS rolls out staff retention scheme as part of the Long Term Plan

A scheme that has helped keep more than 1000 nurses, midwives and other clinicians in the NHS will be rolled out to cover staff working in general practice as well as hospitals, according to NHS England.

A ‘transfer window’ lets staff move within the NHS between areas while developing new skills. Rewards from local businesses like discount gym membership and targeted mentoring for new joiners are among the incentives used to keep them.

Over the last two year the National Retention Programme (NRP) has seen experts work with 145 NHS Trusts to help them find was to retain staff and figures for the first 15 months shows that more than 1100 who would have left decided to stay.

Analysis shows that the scheme means the equivalent of 800 fewer full time nurses have left the NHS since the start of the scheme.

These reductions mean both national nursing staff turnover rates and clinical mental health staff turnover rates are the lowest they have been for five years.

Now the programme is being rolled out to other Trusts and expanded into general practice as part of the NHS People Plan, NHS England chief executive will tell the King’s Fund think-tank’s annual leadership and management summit in London.

Simon Stevens, NHS chief executive, said: “As Europe’s largest employer with 350 different types of job opportunity, the NHS has always been an attractive career option for caring, skilled and determined staff. 

"Three quarters of our staff are women but only half say the NHS is flexible enough as an employer. So as well as a need for action on areas such as pensions, it’s right that local NHS employers are now themselves increasingly taking common sense action to support, develop and retain their staff.”

As well as prompting hospitals to adopt incentives to stay Trusts are also offering “itchy feet” interviews where staff get the opportunity to talk to bosses about why they might leave.

Analysis also shows that since the beginning of the retention scheme, national nursing staff turnover rates have fallen from 12.5% to 11.9%, and mental health clinical staff turnover rates have fallen from 14.3% to 13.4%.

Prerana Issar, NHS chief people officer, said: “With staff turnover at a five-year low, it’s clear that the NHS is competing well with other employers to retain the nurses, midwives and therapists that our patients depend on. The National Retention Programme has had a promising start and we are now looking to roll out this scheme to other Trusts and into general practice. Getting the right workforce is not just about the number of people we bring in, but keeping and rewarding the team we have.”

Rolling out the National Retention Programme is just one of the ways that NHS England and Improvement are looking to expand primary care and general practice.

The NHS Long Term Plan will see funding for primary medical and community care increase as a share of the NHS budget for the first time in the health service’s 70-year history, with an extra £4.5 billion a year invested by 2023.

Around 7000 practices across England – more than 99% – have come together to form more than 1200 Primary Care Networks.

GPs will recruit an army of 20,000 new staff, including pharmacists, physios and social prescribing link workers, to work alongside them.

Up to 40% of appointments do not need to be with a family doctor, and the new recruits will free up GPs to spend more time with patients who need them most, offering longer appointments to those who need them.