Published: 22/07/2004, Volume II4, No. 5915 Page 32 33

From heavy industry to light relief, Sally Mesner discovers how the North East is rebranding itself to lure clinicians and managers to the region in the first of HSJ People's monthly spotlights on regional recruitment markets

It may be a cliché but in workforce terms it is also largely accurate - the North East is a close-knit place which produces a lot of local loyalty.

South Tyneside primary care trust senior human resources adviser Paul Doherty says: 'It is a pretty localised market. There is an unspoken rotation of staff between ourselves, south Tyneside, Gateshead, Sunderland and north Tyneside.

'Most people who train in south Tyneside will end up staying in the region. People tend to stay here for a long time. It is quite a nice region to work in; within the health service people know each other.

'I've worked in London and the turnover was a lot higher. Part of that was that there were more opportunities to move on; the population is more transient.'

County Durham and Tees Valley strategic health authority is expanding on this tendency for employees to stay in the region with long-term strategies to grow the local workforce. By working with local schools and colleges it hopes to promote careers to young people who have not yet decided on one. It is also working to retain student nurses and doctors trained in the region.

The SHA is also trying to tempt back to work nurses and midwives who left to have children.

Joy McGurk, a senior theatre nurse at University Hospital, north Durham, works for the SHA's workforce development confederation two days a week as a recruitment and retention co-ordinator: 'My role at the confederation is to attract nurses and midwives back by securing positions on the refresher course at the University of Teeside and by supporting them in securing employment, ' she says.

Confederation head of workforce expansion Nicola Levitt says that in addition to growing the local workforce, short-term solutions are needed to address the shortage of nurses and GPs in the area.

'Activity has included recruitment from Spain for nurses and pharmacists, and the Philippines and India for GPs and nurses, ' she says. 'We have a franchise twinning arrangement with two regions in Spain and recruited eight GPs last year and three this year.

'The majority of international recruits have settled in well and are planning to remain in the area for the foreseeable future.

This is in part due to support from local trusts, with extensive induction programmes, continuous language support and mentorship. Future plans will focus on working in partnership with trusts to recruit from abroad under a franchise agreement from the Department of Health.'

South Tyneside PCT has addressed the shortage of GPs by looking nearer to home, setting up a Career Start scheme which allows newly qualified GPs working in a practice to work four days a week and take one day off to study. In the second year of the scheme, they can take three months' study leave.

South Tyneside GP Dr Dave Julian began a Career Start scheme last year. 'The scheme provides GPs with continued training after their vocational training, giving them the opportunity for protected personal development, ' he says.

'They do clinical work with a practice but also get the opportunity to do a sabbatical.

'It is all about staff retention in the area.We are hoping that Career Start GPs will develop specific interests locally and take ownership of them, and that if we give them the opportunity to develop they in turn will use this to develop south Tyneside as an area. So far the retention rate is about 50 per cent.'

The Career Start concept was pioneered by the old County Durham and Darlington trust in 1996 by Dr Jamie Harrison.

'We have had about 40 doctors through the scheme and half have stayed in the area, ' he says.

'Now We are looking to recruit internationally from Spain, France and Austria.

'Career Start schemes exist in Durham, Sunderland and south Tyneside. The PCTs advertise and hold interviews together, but there is always going to be some rivalry. There are only so many doctors and We are all trying to get them into our patch and keep them there.

'That is why We are now looking at international recruitment - It is unlikely that we'll be able to recruit from other parts of the country; We are fighting over the same people. There have been about 20 internationally recruited GPs in the region in the past two years.'

County Durham and Tees Valley SHA has developed a generic marketing campaign to promote the North East as an attractive region for NHS staff from other parts of the country to come to work and live.

'We approached consultants already working in the area and asked them what they thought the benefits of working here were, ' says workforce development confederation communications and marketing manager Tom Frizell-Shackley.

'They came up with advantages such as affordable housing, less congested roads and better schools and education centres than in other parts of the country. They were also attracted by a choice of living by the coast, in the city or in the countryside and still being able to drive to work easily, and the proximity to the Lake District, and the Yorkshire dales and moors.

'We started the campaign by running these quotes in a fullpage ad spread over four pages, with striking local photography.

When you think of County Durham and Teesside it brings to mind images of heavy industry.We wanted to break this stereotype.'

The workforce development confederation has also put together an information pack using the photographs and testimonials which it gives out at conferences and careers fairs across the country.

It distributes postcards with views of the local landscape and has produced a calendar with 12 views it sends out instead of Christmas cards.

'We have also used strong images of the area on the cover of our annual report, turning it into a marketing tool to showcase the area in its best light, ' says Mr Frizell-Shackley.

'We are also redeveloping our website to use more local area photography.' l The newcomer: 'We'd have taken jobs we didn't like just to move there' One NHS employee who was attracted to the North East by the beauty of the area is Jonathan Ash, a nurse consultant in acute inpatient mental health at Tees and North East Yorkshire trust.He moved to Cumbria from London, where he was specialist in cognitive behavioural therapy at South London and Maudsley trust, in September last year.

'I got fed up with people not liking each other, 'he says.'The people in London are, by and large, not friendly.My neighbours in London didn't talk to me for two years.People are rude, aggressive, selfish and arrogant.There is something about the English mentality in London.

'My fiancée and I went on holiday to Penrith and decided to move there.We didn't have jobs lined up but bought a house there anyway.We would have taken jobs we didn't like just to move there. In London I was always rushing about.Up here I've started playing cricket again, go hiking and rock climbing.

'There is a much better community atmosphere. In London you might have to commute for hours just to meet one of your friends.

'We now live in a village near Penrith in Cumbria.For the price of the house we were renting in south London, a terraced two-up two-down, we bought a three-bedroom stone cottage with an Aga, big wood fire and a garden.

'My fiancée is now studying and doing part-time work but we can both live comfortably off my wage.That could not have happened in London.

'I work at St Luke's Hospital in Middlesbrough.The drive is 71 miles and takes 90 minutes - in London it took this long to drive 11.5 miles. I tried public transport but it took just as long. I drive to work on the A66 and get fantastic views across the Pennines.'

'People have come from far and wide to work here.They are more relaxed.The pace of life is different - It is not about rushing around.Life is about doing the things you want to do and having time to do them.

'I would recommend Cumbria. I would never go back to London.'