Published: 17/03/2005, Volume II5, No. 5947 Page 33

Candy Morris is chief executive of Kent and Medway strategic health authority.

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

Isolation - Kent is surrounded on three sides by water and has to combat the pull of London and the lack of affordable housing that proximity to the capital brings. The county actually has an excellent arterial road system, lovely countryside and good schools. We have helped provide housing for 105 staff and grants totalling more than£1.1m.

How can changes in skill-mix help?

A lot of effort is going into helping healthcare assistants, nurses, therapists and others extend their knowledge and skills and widen their scope to act.

Agenda for Change and working closely with social care and education providers offers huge opportunities.

Two examples are: new roles in radiography developed by Kent Oncology Centre, and primary care emergency care practitioners who now work with Kent Ambulance Service, stabilising patients at home rather than in hospital.

More than 100 healthcare and allied health professional assistants have joined professional training programmes.

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

It is too early to say for certain but recruitment of GPs and consultants has undoubtedly been better. Both contracts offer exciting opportunities. In addition, over 70 GPs have been supported through the flexible career scheme in our area.

What is being done to ease recruitment of non-clinical staff to the South East?

Among other things, We are maximising flexible working arrangements so people can achieve the balance they need with their other commitments, and ensuring staff feel safe and supported when they're at work. We are also working to create a vibrant learning environment.

How significant have you found overseas staff in easing recruitment pressures?

Specialists from overseas have filled a small number of key clinical gaps. In particular, trusts have been able to recruit nine psychiatrists, a consultant in nuclear medicine and a head and neck consultant.