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HR face NHS staffing crisis

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A shortage in nursing staff and an over dependence on overseas and temporary staff who may quit at short notice has reached a critical level according to the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).

The survey by the RCN shows that the nursing and midwifery workforce in England has grown by 16% to 292,000 over the past four years. This pool of workers is largely bolstered by a temporary workforce sourced from the Philippines, India and South Africa.

The cost of this huge pool of temporary employees soared to more than £600 million in 2002-03.

A danger is lurking, however, say the RCN which may leave the NHS with a situation in which the demand for nurses outstrips supply.

Nurses are being lured to the United States by a new recruitment drive which aims to recruit one million new nurses by the year 2010.

Research by publishers LexisNexis warns that NHS HR professionals must make higher pay, flexible working, career development and training opportunities their top priorities.

Key findings from the study which includes feedback from a panel of 37 NHS employers in recent months include:

  • Only half of the organisations surveyed were able to provide an estimate of recruitment costs.
  • Based on feedback, the average cost of filling each vacancy usually falls in the range of £500 to £2,000.
  • More than half of the NHS organisations surveyed have recruited staff from abroad
  • <More than eight in 10 employers (83%) have experienced an increase in workforce numbers during the past two years
  • The annual turnover rate for NHS employers surveyed, ranged from 0.01% to 18%, although a more typical range is 2% to 10%
  • Problems of recruiting staff are more prevalent than those of staff retention

IRS Employment Review managing editor, Mark Crail said:

“NHS employers wanting to boost their ability to recruit and retain staff need to focus their efforts on two key areas – providing opportunities for flexible working and providing opportunities for career development and advancement. If they do this, and manage to keep recruitment costs down, the UK’s biggest employer may well avoid a staffing crisis.”

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Annie Hayes

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