• Around 325 nurses join trust struggling with recruitment
  • Trust spending millions less on agency staff compared to nearest neighbours
  •  Director of workforce says trust ‘forced to compete’with neighbouring organisations for staff

An acute trust in an area hit by severe staff shortages claims it is stealing a march on neighbouring providers to achieve a three-fold increase in the recruitment of student nurses. 

Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust (HEY) persuaded 325 new staff to join them instead of organisations including York Teaching Hospital FT and Northern Lincolnshire and Goole FT (NLaG) after linking up with undergraduates.

Recruiting extra nurses is having a positive impact on the trust’s agency spend, with HEY spending between £7m to £9m a year less than York and NLaG, both smaller acute trusts and also struggling to recruit.

Hull’s director of workforce Simon Nearney said: “We are all the NHS family and all of us, including NHS Improvement, NHS England and Health Education England, should look at workforce statistics and have a plan. But demand is outstripping supply so what do we do?

“My responsibility is to the residents of Hull and the East Riding and if we haven’t got enough staff, we can’t provide great care.

“We’re forced into a situation where we have to compete with other organisations. It’s unfortunate but we’re getting on with that to employ the best people.”

HEY, whose turnover for 2015/16 was £526.3m, forecast a year-end agency bill of £13.1m while NLaG, turnover £338.5m, spent £22.4m on agency staff in 2016/17. York, turnover £471m, forecast its year-end agency spend at £20.8m.

While trusts normally target job adverts at undergraduates at the end of their three-year degrees, HEY started approaching second and final-year students when it launched the £46,000 recruitment drive 18 months ago, supporting them through assignments and exams, before 135 graduates joined last September.

Now, after extending the support to first-year students to strength the connection over coming years, around 150 newly qualified nurses - three times HEY’s student intake in 2015 - are due to start this September on the successful completion of their degrees.

A further 40 nurses will also take up posts at Hull in August and September after an overseas recruitment drive in the Philippines, bringing this year’s total intake to almost 10 per cent of its current nursing establishment of around 2,000 full time equivalents.

Using the Royal College of Nursing’s estimated average cost of £6,000 including agency recruitment fees, travel and training to recruit a single overseas nurse, HEY hired 100 EU nurses in 2015 at a cost of around £600,000. This year’s overseas recruitment bill is expected to fall to around £240,000.

HEY had recruitment problems given its geographical isolation and, more recently, struggled with reputational damage after the CQC uncovered a culture of bullying in 2014. However, the most recent staff survey appears to show progress, with 13 of the 32 key findings better than the national average or in the top 20 per cent compared to six in 2015.

HEY commissioned marketing firm Strawberry to devise the “Remarkable People, Extraordinary Place” recruitment campaign.

Staff also attend university recruitment fairs in Manchester, Lincoln, Nottingham, Middlesbrough and Sheffield as the trust reached beyond its traditional recruitment parameters of East Yorkshire for the first time.

Mr Nearney said: “Before, we didn’t believe our brand was strong enough to uproot people from other parts of Yorkshire and further afield. We didn’t have a good story to tell.

“Now, we’ve got a stable board and some good and even exceptional performance. It’s paying dividends.”

  • On 19 May HSJ removed some pictures from the Remarkable People advertising campaign at the trust’s request. The trust said they were shared with HSJ in error and had not been approved for use in the campaign.