Newly-qualified nurses that have trained in the capital could in the future be guaranteed employment in London, under plans being developed by chief nurses.
The plans are part of a new programme, called Capital Nurse, designed to improve recruitment and retention and create a sustainable workforce in London.
“The idea is we want to keep all the students we train in London and then we want to hold on to them for longer”
It was set up by NHS England’s regional chief nurse for London Caroline Alexander in the summer alongside trust directors of nursing and in collaboration with universities and workforce planning body Health Education England.
All London trust chief nurses will be asked to commit by April to a scheme that would be introduced in autumn 2017 ensuring graduate nurses are offered a job.
It is also hoped that GP practices and social care employers will sign up to the employment guarantee initiative.
Those behind the programme said it was a common myth that nurses found it difficult to gain employment in the capital – causing graduates to make several unnecessary applications, when in fact most are able to secure a job.
They told Nursing Times they wanted to create more of a “sense of positivity” around working in London and show nurses the opportunities the capital can offer.
They also wanted to “minimise the resources” needed by trusts to deal with the large number of applications.
In addition, the offer of guaranteed employment is expected to help drive down the high rates of turnover among new nurses at NHS trusts in London by fostering a greater sense of loyalty to an organisation.
A snapshot survey by Health Education England of nurses working in London, which included a high proportion of newly-qualifieds, revealed more than 30% had stopped working in the capital – or anywhere else in the NHS – within five years.
Those nurses may continue to work in healthcare roles and settings outside of the NHS – such as in GP practices or social care – but may have left the profession entirely.
It is problematic for the trusts they leave behind, according to Chris Caldwell, dean of healthcare professions at Health Education England North, Central and East London, who is jointly leading the programme.
“The idea is we want to keep all the students we train in London and then we want to hold on to them for longer,” she told Nursing Times.
“We know from talking to our nurse directors they can recruit newly qualified nurses – perhaps not in the number they need – but there is a challenge of retaining them beyond three, four or five years when they start to find it difficult to afford to live in London and travel,” she added.
She said most trusts wanted to see their overall nurse vacancy rates reduced to 5%. Recent data collected by the Royal College of Nursing shows average vacancy rates in the capital are around 17%.
The Capital Nurse programme will also cover two other areas – reducing agency and temporary nurse staffing, and postgraduate career progression.
Ms Caldwell said the group wanted to look at standardising post-registration training required for specialist nurse roles, in order to reduce the number of nurses moving between trusts to progress their careers.
“The idea is to create more structured career pathways and manage that movement, so it doesn’t create so much additional recruitment cost and time,” added Ms Caldwell.
The Capital Nurse programme is part of the wider work being led nationally by Health Education England in response to a major review of nurse education and training last year, titled the Shape of Caring.
Health Education England has recently confirmed it will look at setting up a “virtual faculty” that sets national standards and competencies required for specialist nurse roles.