Published: 03/02/2005, Volume II4, No. 5941 Page 35

Peter Houghton, chief executive, Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire SHA

What is the single biggest cause of staff recruitment problems in your area?

Given the rural profile, the employment pool is much more dispersed and there is not always the better-developed transport links you find in more urbanised settings.

In Cambridge, house prices are comparable to London - without the pay weighting.

There has also been a traditional challenge to recruiting medical staff in Norfolk and Suffolk, compounded by the lack of a medical school in that area. The setting up of a new medical school at the University of East Anglia should help.

To what extent can changes in skill-mix help to ease recruitment difficulties?

Increasingly, medical staff are taking on enhanced roles and offering specialist skills which will help mitigate recruitment pressures in key areas. One good example has been the introduction of four career grades in radiology. This has not only opened up the field for a greater number of candidates it has also reduced the leakage of skilled radiographers.

Have the new GP/consultant contracts helped or hindered clinical recruitment?

It is too early to say, but the expectation remains that it will help clinical staff recruitment in the longer term.

What is being done to ease recruitment of non-clinical staff to eastern trusts?

Our workforce team ensures a presence at fairs and events across the three counties.

On top of this they have developed specific schemes such as the ambassador and cadet programmes, which are aimed at new recruits. And a tremendous amount of work has been done with schools, getting young people to see the NHS as a positive career option.

How significant have you found overseas staff (clinical and non-clinical) in easing the recruitment pressures in your strategic health authority?

Foreign staff make a significant contribution now. We have recently targeted Polish dentists to help meet a shortage. We have to work harder on the international recruitment side because overseas candidates tend to want to live in bigger urban centres. The villages and towns of East Anglia do not feature on the radar of many foreign candidates.