Wolverhampton health action zone has beacon status for its work to improve recruitment and retention among its local community. Through four linked strategies, the zone has started to recruit much more effectively.

The strategies focus on recruiting the long-term unemployed, developing a nurse cadet programme for 16 to 18-year olds, improving the ethnic mix of the workforce to more closely reflect that of the community, and improving retention.

The hospital now offers an eight-week induction course for nursing auxiliaries which can be attended while still on benefits, after which workers are put on a six-month fixed contract with on-the-job training, including an NVQ in customer service.

Staff are then facilitated into vacancies, picking up relevant clinical training along the way. Nearly half are non-white.

Forty people joined the trust as nurse cadets in 1998 and 1999, and will go on to guaranteed places at Wolverhampton University to study nursing. Twelve of these cadets are non-white.

Outreach workers liaise with local churches, temples and community groups to help raise the trust's profile among diverse ethnic groups. 'Small things can make a huge difference, ' explains Yvonne Wood, HAZ health and employment workstream leader. 'Advertising the fact that our uniform policy could accommodate headscarves was quite a big deal among Muslim women, for example.'