Published: 21/11/2002, Volume II2, No. 5832 Page 20

I am replying to Nigel Fielding's letter about the NHS turning to private nursing agencies to learn lessons about recruiting and retaining staff (letters, 7 November).

The NHS does not need to turn to private agencies to learn such lessons. It can learn them from the NHS organisations making major strides forward in staff recruitment and retention.

Traditionally, mental health and learning disability services are particularly hard to recruit to, but here at Tees and North East Yorkshire trust we have a 2.8 per cent nurse vacancy rate.

We are a specialist mental health and learning disability trust that realises the only way it can continue to provide and develop high-quality, innovative services is to put a major and lasting effort into recruiting and retaining the best staff.

We do this in many ways, from growing our own nurses through a comprehensive sponsorship scheme that is currently paying 50 staff to train as nurses and guarantees them a job on completion of their course, to flexible working schemes that ensure we retain our highly specialist staff.

Our efforts to recruit and retain the best possible staff have been recognised with a Regional Employer of the Year award, beating off competition from industry and business.

The Commission for Health Improvement's recent review of our services also highlighted the high staff morale across the trust as something the rest of the NHS can learn from.

So before the government heeds Mr Fielding's advice, let's learn from those NHS organisations that are consistently demonstrating how truly valuing staff can pay dividends.

Caroline Parnell Head of communications Tees and North East Yorkshire trust