An NHS trust in East Anglia has brought in a new recruitment initiative that covers the cost of overseas nurses’ examinations, but has abandoned plans to increase its “golden hello” payments for UK nurses.
Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which currently has 15% of its nurse posts empty, has been looking at a range of incentives to help fill its staffing gaps.
“If this incentive enabled CUH to attract more nurses working within the UK it would reduce reliance on overseas recruitment”
Cambridge University Hospitals board papers
Board papers from January show the organisation has removed its requirement for overseas nurses to repay the trust for some of their employment checks.
Previously, overseas nurses had to pay back the organisation around £1,800 to cover fees including those associated with taking the objective structured clinical examination (OSCE), which has to be passed to in order to join the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s register.
But from January, new nursing recruits from outside Europe have had their NMC registration costs – of up to £1,262 – fully paid for by the trust.
In addition, the organisation will cover their £600 NHS “health surcharge” – brought in by the government in 2015 to charge foreign workers for having access to NHS healthcare. Both are being funded on the condition that nurses stay at the trust for a minimum of two years.
As well as the moves targeted at overseas staff, the organisation already offers a £1,000 welcome subsidy to attract UK nurses and other staff, which has been in place since 2014.
The January board papers reveal the organisation was considering increasing this to £4,000 for band 5 and 6 nurses, with the requirement that staff would have to stay for two years.
“We are always looking at new initiatives to remain competitive in a challenging labour market”
It was considering bringing in this payment because “a number of trusts are offering around £5,000 with anecdotal information that some London trusts are offering up to £8,000 joining incentives”.
“If this incentive enabled CUH to attract more registered nurses working within the UK it would reduce reliance on overseas recruitment and associated costs, furthermore these nurses would be productive within weeks of commencement,” said the papers.
However, a spokesman confirmed to Nursing Times that the trust had decided not to increase these payments for the time being – though was not ruling this out in the future.
Cambridge University Hospitals has planned a series of overseas recruitment campaigns for the rest of 2017, including to the Philippines, India, and Dubai.
In a statement provided to Nursing Times, the trust’s director of workforce noted the current “challenging labour market” for nurses.
“We are always looking at new initiatives to remain competitive in a challenging labour market and assessing what incentives would work in attracting nurses,” said David Wherrett. “We recognise that retention of staff is equally as important as recruitment.”
As previously revealed by Nursing Times, NHS trusts are increasingly looking to financial incentives to attract more nurses to work for them amidst a national staffing shortage.
A mental health trust in the East of England recently started offering to pay NMC registration fees for newly-qualified nurses from its local area after it found nearby trusts were offering recruitment or retention bonuses of up to £3,000.
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As a result, Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust has more than doubled its intake of recruits due to start in the autumn after they qualify.
It is also looking at bringing in a pension opt-out scheme for nurses – an incentive that East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust and also Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust were looking at last year.
Recent statistics from the Royal College of Nursing found that 11% of nursing posts in England are unfilled, meaning there are now 40,000 vacancies in the country – double the figure in 2013. The union called for nurse staffing laws to be brought in across the UK.