A government-funded scheme designed to attract nurses back into the NHS by paying for refresher courses could in the future be extended to help tackle the recruitment crisis in care homes, Nursing Times has learnt.
Discussions are taking place between the national workforce planning body Health Education England, the Department of Health and adult social care providers to see if the scheme could be initially expanded in the West Midlands, before being rolled out across the country.
“We are exploring if there are opportunities to extend the scheme”
The £5m three-year Come Back campaign, launched in 2014, pays the full cost of return to practice courses and offers guaranteed placements in NHS trusts for nurses in England. According to HEE, it has so far seen around 400 former nurses secure jobs.
Nursing Times understands officials are now looking at whether independent care homes would have the capacity to support placements, as part of an extended scheme and also how much demand there is among former nurses to work in the sector.
There have been increasing warnings of a nurse recruitment and retention crisis in the adult social care sector over the past year. Managers have said they are unable to compete with the NHS for pay, particularly at a time of a national nursing workforce shortage.
A recent survey of independent care providers by the National Care Forum revealed an average nurse turnover rate of 27% in the past year.
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Sharon Blackburn, policy and communications director at the forum, has been in discussions with HEE about expanding the return to practice scheme.
She told Nursing Times: “We are exploring if there are opportunities to extend the scheme – particularly in the West Midlands. We are looking to see if there is a cohort [of interested nurses]… and if we can get some engagement from the independent sector as well.”
A spokeswoman for HEE said discussion on the possible extension of the Come Back campaign to adult social care nurses were “very much in their early stages so no further detail is available at the present time”.
She was unable to confirm whether HEE would receive additional funding for the initiative if it were extended.