The must-read stories and debate in health policy and leadership.

A coroner’s warning

The death of a patient who waited over eight hours while the East Midlands Ambulance Service struggled with a severe shortage of response vehicles has prompted a coroner to warn there was a risk of future deaths unless significant action was taken.

Assistant coroner for Northampton Hassan Shah concluded prompt treatment could have prevented the death of 78-year old Diana Gudgeon on 25 May 2018, as we reported on Friday. The incident was classified as a category three call, which has a two-hour response time target.

The trust highlighted that since then it had received £9m of additional investment from commissioners to boost both in its vehicle fleet and workforce. But there are few parts of the NHS suffering as badly from the current workforce crisis as the ambulance sector.

Recruitment of paramedics was already a significant challenge. And retention rates have worsened in recent years as other parts of the NHS have increased their recruitment of paramedics into roles such as primary care practitioners which generally have a better work-life balance and carry out work which is less stressful than that of a frontline ambulance paramedic.

Tragic stories such as this will unfortunately continue to be relatively common unless significant resource is invested in addressing the retention of paramedics by ambulance trusts as well as the shortage of vehicles.

Cornwall’s offering

Talking of recruitment, getting staff to work in remote regions has always been a head-scratcher for NHS chiefs.

But two trusts situated on the tip of the south west of England have come up with a novel plan to attract and retain much-needed nurses.

Cornwall Partnership Foundation Trust and Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust will both pay nurse students during their training by using the government’s apprenticeship levy.

In return, the students will commit to working for the trusts for up to two years after graduating. Anyone departing early must pay the money back.

As CPFT chief executive Phil Confue put it – every trust in the country is trying to attract people to move to their area, and so Cornwall, therefore, needs to offer something extra to potential students.

It is believed this approach, through which the trusts hope to “grow their own workforce”, will be a sustainable solution to the issue.

Launched in 2017, the apprenticeship levy does not yet appear to have caught the eye of many NHS trust chiefs. Perhaps Cornwall’s move will change that. The peninsula is far from the only area where attracting and retaining staff is an issue.