The NHS could save up to £51m a year by introducing family-friendly policies such as workplace nurseries, which would also encourage more women staff to stay in their jobs or return after having babies, says a survey.

But male managers are inhibiting such developments because they think staff should sort out their own childcare problems.

Those are key findings from a rolling survey by the NHS research organisation Pay and Workforce Research, to be published in full later this month.

PWR director John Northrop told HSJ that male managers' view was shortsighted for two reasons. It prevented the NHS from reaping the financial and staffing benefits demonstrated by trusts that have already introduced family friendly policies. The matter would be taken out of their hands when the European parental leave directive takes effect in October.

He added that traditional policies, such as offering staff with family responsibilities part-time work or time off, actually reduced the availability of labour. Results from 141 trusts and 28 purchasers found that only a quarter offer childcare arrangements, still far more than in the private sector.