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Exclusive: Sussex trust offers London salaries in battle for nurses

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A mental health trust in Sussex is matching neighbouring London trust salaries and offering “golden hello” payments in an attempt to attract and retain more nurses.

Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust has been struggling to hold onto its staff, with average turnover rates for band 5 and 6 nurses ranging between 17% and 21% in 2015.

In particular, at its acute inpatient unit, Langley Green Hospital in Crawley, turnover rates for these bands averaged around 28%.

“We are always battling with the London trusts because it’s so easy for our staff to move there”

Anita Green

To tackle the problem there, it has introduced a supplement for new recruits – adding an extra five to 10% to nurse salaries – to mirror the money being offered by nearby outer London mental health trust Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, which benefits from a London weighting.

Meanwhile, in other parts of the organisation – services including dementia and learning disability, and also adult inpatients – nurse candidates are being offered “golden hello” payments.

The initiative, which sees nurses given a bonus of £2,000 over the course of their first two years of employment at the trust, was introduced just over six months ago.

The trust’s head of workforce resourcing, Kate McLachlan, said the scheme had proven successful at its Mill View Hospital, which provides inpatient adult mental health services.

Eight band 5 nurses had been recruited as a result of the scheme, following a period in which the organisation had failed to secure any suitable candidates for the hospital.

Associate director of care professionals’ education, Dr Anita Green, said that matching the salaries of London organisations and offering “golden hellos” had made recruitment more of a “level playing field”.

“Outer London looks more attractive because of the extra money [nurses] can gain through the different weighting allowances”

Anita Green

“When we’ve got people up in the north of the trust – they could so easily say to us that outer London looks more attractive because of the extra money they can gain through the different London weighting allowances,” she said.

“It means the trust has to be creative and innovative in the way we recruit so that we can attract and retain the best people for the right positions,” she added.

Dr Green noted that, while Sussex Partnership FT took most of the newly-qualified nurses from the local university, the close proximity of London meant it was tempting for them to move after a short period.

“We are always battling with the London trusts, because it’s so easy for our staff to move there, even if it’s just the outskirts,” she said.

The trust, which has an establishment of around 1,150 nurses in band 5 and 6 posts, has an overall vacancy rate of 33% and 16%, respectively, for these groups.

To tackle this vacancy rate further, Dr Green said the trust was also looking to fill empty band 5 posts previously taken by nurses with allied health professionals, such as occupational therapists. 

She stressed that other healthcare professionals would not be completing nurse duties, but would instead carry out activities and therapeutic work to support nurses.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Yes but there are no willing nurses where tyranny everywhere is the norm.

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