A new initiative by the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust has reduced nurse vacancies by 95% in just over a year. Record numbers of nurses have been recruited through a series of recruitment events set up by the Trust.
The monthly recruitment centres were inspired by staff identifying that new recruits needed to feel valued from their earliest contact with the Trust and that improvements were needed in the way that the recruitment process flowed.
At a time when numbers of vacancies across the NHS have reached a record high, there is increasing pressure to try new approaches to recruiting and retaining staff. The NHS has a disproportionately older workforce with approximately 30,000 staff reaching retirement age each year, so there is an ongoing need to find large numbers of new staff to plug the gap. As of June 2018 there were nearly 108,000 vacancies in the NHS, which was an increase of over 9,000 vacancies compared to just three months earlier. Experts warned at the time that as the challenges to recruit and retain NHS staff continue this figure was expected to increase through the second half of 2018 and into 2019.
North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust set up an initial mock recruitment centre which involved a wide variety of staff members from all disciplines, including student nurses, and it proved to be very successful. Feedback from applicants showed that they preferred this type of opportunity to showcase their expertise, skills and personal characteristics over the one-to-one interview approach which was used previously.
The recruitment centre approach also proved to be an excellent opportunity for networking, and real recruitment centres have been running every month since February 2018. Between December 2017 and February 2019 the number of vacancies for band five registered nurses within the Trust dropped from nearly 100 to just five. This recruitment success has dramatically reduced North Tees and Hartlepool’s dependency on agency workers and bank staff, which has significantly cut costs. In addition, this drop in vacancies has greatly improved the trust’s ability to cope with the additional pressures experienced across the NHS during the winter period.
Emma Roberts, the Assistant Director of Nursing for North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, highlighted the hard work from numerous individuals within the trust which led to the creation of the recruitment centres. She noted how the reduced number of nurse vacancies has led to increased resilience within the workforce and improved continuity in patient care.
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