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‘Speed dating’ link with local business helps Devon trust halve nurse vacancies

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An NHS trust in Devon has reduced its nurse vacancies by almost half in the past year following a number of changes to recruitment, including linking up applicants’ partners with local businesses to help them find work.

A year and a half ago, Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust had a 12% staff turnover rate, contributing to 10% of its 900 nurse posts remaining empty.

“One of the questions we ask is: ‘what does your partner do and are they looking for work?’ ”

Darryn Allcorn

It was mainly struggling to fill band 5 posts in its hospital services, as well as specialist nurse vacancies. The trust’s chief nurse, Darryn Allcorn, said that for a small organisation this was creating a “significant gap” in the workforce.

The rate at which people were leaving also meant “it was like turning the tap on and having the plug left out”, he told Nursing Times.

But following changes to its approach to recruitment and retention, turnover has reduced to 8% and the trust now has just 6% of its posts empty.

The organisation improved its options for flexible working after it found the main reason staff were departing was due to retirement.

It also found that while, the organisation was able to attract applicants from outside the local region, many who were offered jobs would drop out.

“We have seen a stark increase in the number of people that are coming to the area”

Darryn Allcorn

This was because their partners were often experiencing difficulties finding work due to the area’s rural location and its focus on the tourism industry, said Mr Allcorn.

To tackle the problem, the trust now asks nurses whether their partner is looking for a new job and links them up with a local business network.

He said: “It’s bit like speed dating. If we know we’ve got somebody coming into the area, one of the questions we ask at interview is: ‘what does your partner do and are they looking for work?”

“Some candidates we may have traditionally lost have come to the area because we have been able to hook their partners up through a local business network,” he added.

In addition, the trust is now actively promoting the benefits of relocating to the area and offering on-the-spot interviews to nurses when they come to open days at the trust.

“We have marketed the things we already have in place – improved quality of life, good surfing, being close to the beach and Exmoor,” he said. “These elements, plus the help we can provide to family members, have really made the difference in terms of the number of people we are recruiting.

“We are now sponsoring healthcare assistants into nurse programmes”

Darryn Allcorn

“We have seen a stark increase in the number of people that are coming to the area, whereas before we were very reliant on local students coming to work for us once they graduate,” he told Nursing Times.

At a recent event, the organisation made 19 job offers following on-the-spot interviews, out of 28 nurses who came to look around the trust.

In the future, the trust aims to reduce its nurse vacancies further by supporting healthcare assistants and assistant practitioners with fast-track two-year nurse training – by using some of their prior experience to count towards their degree.

“Our next steps are to look again at retention and also to look at other parts of the workforce. We have no problem recruiting support workers so we are now sponsoring healthcare assistants into nurse programmes,” said Mr Allcorn.

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