Supported by Unison and managers in partnership


  • Dean Royles, head of HR capacity and employment, Department of Health
  • Steve Barnett, director, NHS Employers
  • Karen Jennings, national secretary of health, Unison

Winner Newham University Hospital Trust

The winning project impressed the judges with its innovative use of organisational development ideas to overcome some difficult challenges. Partnership work has improved service delivery, resolved long-standing recruitment issues and changed the reputation of the maternity services

The Healthy Babies project was devised to address the difficulties of recruiting and retaining midwives to a busy inner London maternity department at a time of national shortage.

Newham has a young and vibrant population and increasing numbers of births, but concern had been raised by infant mortality rates that compared unfavourably with the national average. With high levels of deprivation, its diverse community relies on well co-ordinated services to support its complex needs.

Neighbourhood renewal funding helped the trust conduct a formal service review - Delivering the Future - which looked at leadership, systems, culture and resources. Partnership consultation helped the trust ask difficult questions and learn some tough lessons about itself.

The value of this approach can be seen in the success of the development programme that grew out of the exercise. Getting the recruitment and retention strategy for midwives right has been a vital element of improving the safety and continuity of maternity services. A lecturer-in-practice and a practice development midwife now support the transition from student to newly appointed midwife and autonomous practitioner. Individual and team coaching builds cohesiveness and helps foster patient-focused services that values equity, respect and dignity.

Before Delivering the Future, Newham had more than 30 midwifery vacancies in an establishment of 107. Now the service is at full capacity for the first time and there has been further investment to appoint more staff. Numbers of bookings and births are increasing and feedback shows that complaints against the unit are down.

Better staff ratios have gone a long way to improving the working environment. But the most important outcomes are those showing the improvement in the health of Newham's babies.

Healthy babies, contact

Highly commended The National Autistic Society

Training unskilled workers for a career in care looks set to solve a long-standing recruitment conundrum

The National Autistic Society-managed Hayes Independent Hospital was faced with a dilemma. Recruiting good quality support staff with previous experience in care work was becoming increasingly difficult but, at the same time, the society knew that a lot of people who had never worked as carers were coming forward and expressing their interest in response to vacancies.

Designing the trainee support worker programme gave the hospital a tool for taking these enthusiastic yet unskilled candidates and turning them into well-equipped staff of the future. The scheme also offered a number of cost benefits, including the reduction of recruitment spend and the improvement of retention rates.

Over six months trainees went through a structured induction which introduced them to the different aspects of the service. As well as literature and lectures, the new recruits spent time shadowing other staff as they worked with residents. This helped them gain valuable insights into the principles and ethos of the hospital while giving the residents time to be gradually introduced to new people.

Each trainee worked through a staged career objectives and development plan with built-in self-assessment measures to map their progress against. Working practice guidelines outline responsibilities appropriate to the time on the programme.

So far 12 recruits have completed training and gone on to get support worker posts. It is a thoughtful approach that matches human resources requirements with opportunities for service delivery developments. The matching of resident and trainee needs in the programme and the wider benefits it offers to sustainability especially impressed judges.

Trainee support worker programme, contact

Finalist Nottingham County Daat and Nottingham Teaching PCT

This innovative scheme has put problematic service users in the driving seat

The drug and alcohol team at Newark and Sherwood PCT has developed a scheme to train and employ former service users as counsellors in the substance misuse team. In its first year the project employed nine problematic drug users who have all since gone on into full-time employment. Improvements in their self-esteem, confidence and health have helped them in their efforts to remain drug and crime-free and rebuild relationships. The initial nine recruits now provide peer support to nine new recruits. The reduction in addiction-related crime during those first 12 months has, by Project Recruit's reckoning and using Home Office calculations, saved the community more than£23m.

Project recruit, contact

Finalist Camden PCT

This finalist supports people hoping to work in health and social care, and provides training for those short of skills

Camden NHS Job Shop was opened in November 2005 to support local people hoping to gain employment in health and social care.

Candidates receive personalised support and information sessions on specific roles in the NHS.

Employers engaging with the Job Shop can access pre-employment training funds for candidates in need of skills training prior to starting work.

The service takes a strongly collaborative approach with partner agencies and has helped contribute to a more efficient use of public money through pooled funding.

Of the 375 people registered during its first five full months of operation, 45 have attended pre-employment training with approximately 50 per cent securing paid employment.

Working for health:job shop, contact

Finalist Chelsea and Westminster Foundation Trust

An ethical overseas recruitment programme has helped tackle a shortage of midwives

The high cost of living in central London was just one of the factors leading to an acute shortage of midwives at Chelsea and Westminster in 2004. Poor staffing ratios increased the clinical risks to mothers and babies and agency spending was running at£1.4m per year.

An ethically based overseas recruitment programme formed part of a broader strategy to improve staffing levels.

Following early success, recruiting from Scandinavia and Greece, vacancy rates fell from 32 per cent to just 5 per cent by April 2006.

International recruitment of midwives, contact