NHS retention programme leads to fewer staff leaving frontline roles

A major NHS retention programme led to thousands fewer staff leaving the NHS last year.

The programme will now be expanded across the country, with 42 more NHS trusts set to benefit.

The programme has seen staff offered extra flexibility with working hours, clinical ‘support squads’ to help menopausal women at work, and HR ‘stay advocates’, who find ways to keep staff on the brink of leaving.

Recent data shows that the equivalent of 14,000 fewer staff left the NHS in the 12 months up to August 2023 (108,890) – compared to 122,970 the year before.

The pilot programme has benefitted 23 NHS Trusts since it launched in April 2022 with hospitals receiving expert support to identify ways to keep staff happier.

At United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust weekly in-house menopause clinics led by the trust’s wellbeing team and staff network were introduced and and the trust has saved £9 million on agencies so far this year.

Any staff member who thinks they are showing symptoms of menopause can self-refer to the clinic, where they will initially be triaged by a nurse and given advice on how to manage the condition. They will also be offered a range of wellbeing support.

If clinical support is required, the staff member will be offered a 45-minute appointment with a specialist menopause doctor, with suggestions for treatment, prescription or onward referral shared with the staff member’s GP.

Lancashire and South Cumbria Foundation Trust has been urging staff considering leaving the trust to have confidential catchups with HR ‘stay advocates’, who help identify ways to improve their working life and stop them leaving

Dr Navina Evans, chief workforce, training & education officer at NHS England said: “This winter is going to be a challenging one for the NHS, and while staff will be going above and beyond to look after patients, it’s also important that we look after those helping us too.

“That is why we are almost doubling the number of trusts implementing our successful retention programme, which has helped prevent thousands of staff from leaving the NHS altogether – a crucial intervention at a time when our workforce is under so much pressure.

“But the NHS will not stop there, and as part of the first ever Long Term Workforce Plan, the NHS will take practical and sustained action to retain tens of thousands of more staff over the next 15 years.

“While we will also recruit and train hundreds of thousands more people and adopt the latest tech to give our staff the support they need; so if you are interested in working for the NHS, or have loved ones who might be, please consider joining us.”

Professor Em Wilkinson-Brice, national director for people at NHS England said: “Joining the NHS was one of the best decisions I ever made – it is a hugely fulfilling and interesting place to work – but we cannot rely on this alone to keep staff happy.

“That is why as part of the National Retention Programme staff will benefit from tried and tested interventions which have already helped thousands of staff members stay, and importantly stay well in the NHS.

“The NHS will go even further as part of our Long Term Workforce Plan with staff set to benefit from better opportunities for career development, improved flexible working options, and improvements to the pension scheme so even more stay with us.”