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Retention project kicks off as NHS losing nurses at 'alarming rate'

‘A very good start’ has been made by NHS Improvement to retain nurses in their positions as more and more choose to leave their jobs

‘A very good start’ has been made by NHS Improvement to retain nurses in their positions as more and more choose to leave their jobs, according to the Nuffield Trust.

NHS Improvement has launched a new programme in an attempt to improve employee retention, hoping to bring down leaver rates in the NHS by 2020. They described nurses as the ‘backbone’ of the health service and said the programme will seek to understand the reasons why they are leaving.

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The project will spread all over England, with support on offer to healthcare providers nationally. Its programme will include a series of master classes for directors of nursing and HR directors to discuss ways to reduce retention, targeted support for all mental health providers to improve the retention rates of staff and also online ‘webinar’ sessions.

Director of nursing for NHS Improvement Ruth May said: ‘We now have an opportunity to provide trusts with tailored support to persuade staff to stay in the NHS. It's the right thing to do and it’s a real priority for me.

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‘We know there is no magic bullet or formula for getting this absolutely right and it is not all down to retention, but we have a major part to play in supporting all of our staff and making sure we can keep them.’

While the project was met with a warm reception by the Nuffield Trust, they were also cautious that current government sanctions – namely, the 1% pay cap – would need to be lifted before retention could improve.

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Nuffield Trust director of policy Candace Imison said: ‘The NHS is shedding staff at an alarming rate, and that only looks set to worsen as uncertainty over Brexit continues. Because of this it is absolutely right to focus on how the health service can hang onto its most valuable asset – the people that make up the workforce.

‘This package of measures is a very good start. Focusing not only on how trusts can retain staff, but also helping them understand better why staff are leaving is sensible. But the continued cap on staff pay threatens to undermine this work.

‘Until the government act to address the prolonged squeeze on the pay packets of nurses and other NHS staff, the health service is likely to face an uphill battle where staff retention is concerned.’