Headlines: November 19th, 1999

The South East has attracted a record number of nurses back to work, according to the latest NHS statistics. It follows a four million pound investment in ‘return to practice’ initiatives, aimed at bringing back skilled staff. Nursing faces a severe shortfall in staff which cannot be met purely from school and college-leavers.The Government is determined that the whole NHS learns from the success of the initiative, via its eight ‘nurse champions’ who are heading regional taskforces spreading good practice about introduction of family-friendly policies and flexible working.

A vacancy survey in March showed that at that point, 1,450 posts in the south-east were difficult to fill. But since a national recruitment campaign began, nearly 1,900 qualified nurses and midwives have contacted employer  in the south-east about rejoining the NHS. More than 840 are either already back in employment or on or about to start return to nursing courses. In central London, NHS trusts are introducing more than flexible hours – they are targeting returners, tackling violence and racism, investing in keep-in-touch schemes, providing creche facilities and flexible working patterns, and involving staff in decisions affecting their work and welfare. By being responsive to the needs of their staff, NHS trusts such as Ealing and Guy’s and St Thomas’ are able to maintain a healthy and committed local workforce.

Hammersmith Hospitals NHS Trust recently began their fourth return to nursing course, with 29 people so far completing it. Returners are supported through a programme including classroom teaching, practical experience and mentorship.

The key findings of recruitment, retention and vacancy survey are that of over 260,000 qualified nursing and midwife posts across England, 6,800 (2.6 per cent) have been vacant for 3 months or more.

Copies of the full regional results are available from the Health Department Public Enquiry Office on 0207 210 4850.