Published: 26/05/2005, Volume II5, No. 5957 Page 33

Mark Easton is chief executive of North Central London strategic health authority

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

The cost of living, particularly in inner London. Staff cannot afford housing, and this affects family life. Recruitment and retention remains a problem in some key areas, but we have developed responses.

For example, a structured training programme for assistant radiographers.

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

Skill-mix change, new ways of working and new roles all open up opportunities to attract new recruits. Our particular focus has been to attract more local people into jobs in the NHS and help them progress.

We also want a workforce that reflects our local population. We have put schemes in place to attract unemployed people into NHS starter jobs. We then set out a development pathway so that if they want to pursue professional training they can.

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

We have seen evidence of new ways of working with GP practices and trusts that better meet patient needs. For example, many of our practice nurses can prescribe medicines and the new GMS contract should encourage the development of community matrons who can support patients with long-term conditions and improve the quality of their life.

What is being done to ease recruitment of non-clinical staff to the London area?

We have a number of schemes linked to schools, Jobcentre Plus and European social funding to attract local people. We also provide individual learning accounts and NVQs for non-clinical staff across catering, finance and business administration. And we have established a successful e-based recruitment system that has attracted many more applications.

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

We should see overseas recruitment as a short-term strategy and are working hard to get more local people into the NHS career framework. The implementation of Agenda for Change should significantly support this process.