spotlight on North West recruitment market

Published: 14/10/2004, Volume II4, No. 5927 Page 34 35

Reaching deprived young people and selling the good life to consultants are among the challenges for North West recruiters. William Little reports

Few strategies for the North West are written without an eye on the region's deprivation. Such is the emphasis on regeneration that investment in recruitment and retention mostly means investing in the local economy and people.

'Merseyside is a deprived area and the work we do is not just about employment needs now, ' says Judith McGregor, manager of Cheshire and Merseyside's NHS and social care academy.

'We recognised the need to work with young people from disadvantaged groups to provide them with the skills to access employment in the NHS in the long term.'

Working with local education colleges, Connexions (the government's support service for young people aged 13-19), the learning and skills councils and trusts, the academy can identify future training needs and ensure that local colleges start courses.

The main emphasis, however, is on supporting the 16-24-year-olds who are taken on the twoyear NHS cadet schemes, which can lead to an NVQ level two.

'They are low-entry jobs such as healthcare scientists, dental nurses and healthcare assistants, but these people wouldn't traditionally have had the qualifications to access them, ' says Ms McGregor. The academy will take on 260 young people this year.

Reaching the very young is another priority. A CD-ROM on careers in the NHS has recently been commissioned because local children could only name two careers in health - doctors and nurses. The CD will follow a day in the life of a young occupational therapist, including what he does in his free time.

Greater Manchester strategic health authority is also working to attract people from disadvantaged groups.

'We are working with Jobcentre Plus to find out why minority groups are not applying for jobs as healthcare assistants, ' says SHA recruitment initiatives manager Jane Worsely. 'Often it is because they find the application form daunting and they need help filling it in.'

Up the road in Cumbria and Lancashire, higher-end recruitment is top of the agenda.

Although there is a national shortage of consultants and GPs, Cumbria and Lancashire SHA workforce development manager Lesley Murray says the two counties have it tougher than most because they do not have a medical school.

'We can't grow our own, ' says Ms Murray. 'Traditionally, we have had few specialist registrars as they have tended to stay where they were trained.' This situation has changed recently, with the numbers of SPRs doubling in the past 12 months.

'We have tapped into national initiatives such as the managed placement and international fellowship schemes and were one of the first areas to pilot the consultant entry scheme, ' she says.

The scheme aims to support registrars in their first post to help reverse a national trend that saw many SPRs moving out of the medical profession or becoming locums.

'We found many SPRs were not taking up consultant posts because they were being thrown in at the deep end without enough support. Now we are supporting consultants in their first post through mentoring and continuing professional development time.'

Primary care trusts have also had to think creatively to get across the message that Cumbria and Lancashire can offer consultants not only a good job but also opportunities for hobbies.

Morecambe Bay Hospitals trust realised consultants who would be prepared to move to the area would probably be interested in walking - the Lake District and the Pennines are close by. The trust advertised vacant consultant posts in a national walking magazine, and it worked.

Cheshire and Merseyside SHA international recruitment manager Karen Sidebottom says it is following suit with a plan to advertise GP and consultant posts in a yachting magazine.

International recruitment is also important. Last October, the SHA set up an international recruitment team with five dedicated recruitment specialists working in partnership with its PCTs and trusts.

The team provides support to local organisations and is successful, says Ms Sidebottom, because of its expertise. 'We make the process of international recruitment as wrinkle-free as possible for the trusts, ' she says.

But finding staff is not the only problem - they have to be housed when they arrive. It is easier to find a nurse a home in the inner city than in leafy Cheshire, says Ms Sidebottom.

'We had difficulty finding rental accommodation in Cheshire for a cohort of nurses from India recently, yet is it is the other way round for consultants? There are plenty of big houses for sale in the suburbs but nothing of an equivalent standard or size in some city areas.'

Manchester, meanwhile, is using its bright lights to lure graduates from London as well as overseas.

The city's biggest shortages are for GPs and dentists but Ms Worsely says it is better off than much of the North West. 'The medical deanery is based in Manchester, we are very close to the airport, we are also a big city close to the countryside - the Lake District is only an hour away.

She continues: 'Manchester can compete on sports, theatres and everything that goes with a vibrant multicultural city.'

The clincher, says Ms Worsely, is that house prices are so much lower than in the capital. 'A consultant's or GP's salary will go further here, but they do not have to miss out on big city life.'

Practically, the SHA works closely with PCTs in the area and organises presentations in other deaneries in medical schools in London and the South East.

On top of this, Ms Worsely says it is giving GPs greater flexibility - in particular, it has introduced flexible working for retiring GPs who want to stay on. This can mean going down to a half week or just doing two or three sessions a week.

'We work out what their needs are and the needs of their families and go from there.'

The incomer: no broadband, but the hills are lovely

Mark Hutchison moved to the Yorkshire Dales from Southend-on-Sea in Essex about a year ago to take up the post of IT manager at Airedale trust.

'I moved back partly because I was brought up an hour from here, but mainly because I was looking for somewhere to settle down, 'he says.

'My wife was expecting our first child and Airedale came top in the recent Dr Foster patient satisfaction survey, so it is one of the top hospitals in the country. I moved back for the countryside and pace of life. I want to walk and hike in the hills around here.'

The village he lives in has only 100 houses and no broadband connection.

'We can't even get gas here.'

But there are other attractions.'The hospital is the only one to serve the local community so there is immense pride in it.

People working here really feel it is their hospital.'