Figures from the Department of Health show that in the year ending September 2001 an extra 20,740 nurses joined the health service. This figure exceeds the target in the NHS Plan to recruit 20,000 more nurses and midwives by 2004. After deducting nurses who left the health service, the number of nurses working for the NHS rose by 14,400, the biggest increase on record. The Return to Practice initiative, which brought back many experienced nurses who had left the service, contributed to the increase, along with better pay, child care and flexible working options.A similar picture has emerged from the Department for Education and Skills. There has been a 23 per cent rise in the number of people applying for Postgraduate Certificate in Secondary Education courses. Applications are up in all ‘shortage’ subjects. Compared with this time last year there has been a 29% rise in numbers of people applying to train as Maths teachers and a 13% rise in numbers of people applying to train as Science teachers. Measures taken to boost recruitment include 6,000 pound training bursaries and 4,000 pound Golden Hellos for those who qualify in the ‘shortage’ subjects. The Education Bill, currently in Parliament, contains provisions for the student loans of newly-qualified teachers in ‘shortage’ subjects to be paid off.
The emphasis is now moving from recruitment to retention. In the health service there is a commitment to improve the working lives of nurses and make nursing a more attractive career. For teachers there is a commitment to find new ways of working to tackle excessive workload and employers and unions are collaborating to achieve this.