Published: 24/03/2005, Volume II5, No. 5947 Page 35

Trevor Jones - chief executive of Avon, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire strategic health authority.

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

The high cost of housing and low unemployment can be obstacles to recruitment, and some health professions have historically been difficult to recruit to. But this did not stop us recruiting 170 new doctors, 1,100 new nurses and 600 new clinical support staff last year.

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

The NHS is looking at new ways of working for existing staff, and the development of roles that may attract people who had not previously considered the NHS. Advanced radiographers, for example, are taking on procedures traditionally carried out by doctors, and assistant practitioners are being recruited to do more routine work.

Have the new general medical services and consultant contracts helped or hindered recruitment?

The early signs are that the new contracts are helping - offering more flexible working patterns. GPs, for example, can now opt out of out-of-hours work. The new contracts provide for the needs of a modern workforce with better provisions for flexible working and career planning.

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

We have been working with schools and colleges to promote NHS careers. School co-ordinators oversee a variety of activities such as work experience and a taster day to give children an idea of the opportunities available.

Individual trusts have a number of initiatives. Trusts in Bristol, for example, have looked at ways of encouraging recruitment from people from minority ethnic backgrounds.

How significant have you found overseas staff in easing the recruitment pressures in your strategic health authority?

Over the past four to five years, approximately 400 nurses have been recruited from overseas, significantly reducing the vacancy rates of most trusts.

Eighty nurses have been recruited from Spain in the past year. Weston General Hospital has recruited four Swedish surgeons.