• Two-year programme has seen national nursing turnover rate fall
  • Same was found for mental health clinical turnover rates
  • Scheme to be expanded to all trusts by end of year

NHS Improvement’s national programme to improve workforce retention has resulted in the lowest nursing turnover rate since 2014, it has said.

The retention programme was launched in 2017 to just 35 providers but has since been rolled out to 110. According to the regulator’s figures, the national nursing turnover rate has fallen from 12.5 per cent to 11.9 per cent during the period of the programme.

The regulator has also specifically measured the impact on turnover rates among all clinicians at mental health trusts. These fell from 14.3 per cent to 13.4 per cent during the programme.

Mark Radford, director of nursing improvement at NHS Improvement, presented the statistics at the HSJ Patient Safety Congress in Manchester on Tuesday. He stressed that, although the scheme has shown “demonstrable change over a short space of time”, turnover rates were still “too high”.

Professor Radford said the improvements in retention were down to providers following “simple and effective strategies… focussing on the people and following an appropriate quality improvement approach”.

He said the scheme focussed on factors within trusts’ control including staff engagement, their flexibility “offer”, adapting roles as staff get older, an open culture, and continuing professional development.

The programme also found a large proportion of leavers did so for unknown reasons. Professor Radford said this should be investigated further to inform future work on retention.

“There is no point recruiting more people unless we fix the leaky bucket,” Professor Radford said. “Organisations have a huge leverage in terms of support to their staff.”

Professor Radford added the scheme would be rolled out to all NHS providers by the end of the year and bespoke programmes for GP and emergency care were also being produced.

He stressed there was not a one-size-fits-all model, and that “local workforce dynamics needs to be understood”.

However, he said in general the “culture of an organisation is fundamental to ensure people feel engaged”, and stressed the importance of retire and return programmes, noting that last year the NHS recruited more nurses from Portugal than the number retired and returned from the domestic NHS.