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The government has revealed the progress being made on recruiting thousands of more nurses into the NHS, with some regions faring better than others.

A progress report issued this week admitted that, while ministers were on course to achieve their target, there were “plausible planning scenarios where it could fall short”.

The Conservative party promised in its election manifesto to recruit 50,000 more nurses by 2024 and figures showed a net increase of 27,000 between September 2019 and December 2021.

However, there are two caveats: one, it appears this was achieved by fewer nurses leaving the health service during the pandemic; and two, overseas recruitment has had its struggles.

Regional analysis revealed variation in where growth was fastest – and slowest – en route to the 50,000 target.

The South East of England saw the largest percentage points increase between September 2019 and December 2021, at 12.3 per cent, followed by the East of England (10 per cent) and the South West.

Conversely, the North East and Yorkshire had the smallest percentage points increase (7.4 per cent) as they lagged behind alongside London (8 per cent) and the Midlands (8.4 per cent).

But recruitment is half the problem – what about retention?

Cutting Russia out of the supply chain

The secretary of state has told the NHS it must get Russian and Belorussian companies out of its supply chain as soon as practically possible.

He issued this edict on the weekend in a letter to trusts, first telling them first to send his department a list of all Russian and Belorussian suppliers by 5pm on 8 March and then saying they need to “exit those contracts as soon as possible, within the terms of those contracts”.

The letter and an accompanying email from NHS England to trust leaders acknowledges that there may well be a financial cost to leaving a contract early. The NHSE email points out that leaving the contract early, “outside of existing terms,” would need HM Treasury approval.

The clear implication here is that, should trusts find that they have contracted with a supplier from those countries, they may well end up quitting the contract on the date it was due to expire anyway.

The government may find the cost of compensating the counter-party is too high to bear. And do nothing to further the government’s ambition of stopping the flow of money eastwards.

Also on today

In The Download, Nicholas Carding wonders whether the new target for implementing electronic patient records is easier than its predecessor, and in comment, Adrian James of the Royal College of Psychiatrists says government backing is essential for harnessing the full potential of mental health access standards.