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NHS nurse retention scheme to be extended to general practice

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A national retention scheme that is being credited for helping to keep 800 NHS nurses in post will be expanded to general practice, it has been announced today.

The programme was launched two years ago and has seen experts work with 145 trusts in England to help them find ways to stop their staff from leaving.

“Three quarters of our staff are women but only half say the NHS is flexible enough as an employer”

Simon Stevens 

New analysis of the figures released today by NHS England shows the equivalent of 800 fewer full-time nurses have quit since the start of the scheme.

These reductions mean the national nursing staff turnover rate is the lowest it has been in five years, according to the organisation. 

Among the incentives tested as part of the National Retention Programme include offering staff a “transfer window” to move within the NHS between areas to develop new skills.

Rewards from local businesses like discount gym membership and targeted mentoring for new joiners have also been trialled.

In October last year, Nursing Times revealed that the scheme was going to be extended to all NHS trusts in England.

Today, NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens has announced that general practice will also benefit.

The expansion has been approved as part of the NHS People Plan – the forthcoming workforce strategy that will sit alongside the NHS Long Term Plan released in January.

Mr Stevens is due to tell the King’s Fund’s annual leadership and management summit in London today: “As Europe’s largest employer with 350 different types of job opportunities, 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.”

“The nursing profession has been left shrinking as intolerable pressure saw too many burnt-out and voting with their feet”

Dame Donna Kinnair 

The NHS England analysis of figures shows that since the beginning of the retention scheme, national nursing staff turnover rates have fallen from 12.5% to 11.9%.

As well as prompting hospitals to adopt incentives to get staff to stay, trusts involved in the retention scheme have also been offering “itchy feet” interviews for employees to talk to their bosses about why they might leave.

Royal College of Nursing

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Dame Donna Kinnair

Dame Donna Kinnair, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said the plans to expand the retention scheme was “encouraging to see”.

“In recent years, the nursing profession has been left shrinking as intolerable pressure saw too many burnt-out and voting with their feet. This work demonstrates that investing in the workforce reaps dividends and achieves sustainable services for the benefit of patients,” she said.

“As well as bringing a new generation through education, the NHS is right to make keeping the best nurses a priority - flexible working, investment in training, fair pay and the right staffing levels go a long way to doing that.”

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