Posted on 11 December 2023

​Thanks to a significant new retention initiative that is currently being rolled out across the nation, thousands fewer employees departed the NHS last year. The NHS retention program, which has seen staff granted greater flexibility with working hours, clinical "support squads" to help menopausal women at work, and HR "stay advocates," who discover ways to keep staff on the verge of leaving, is likely to benefit up to 42 more NHS trusts. This expansion coincides with data indicating that in the year ending August 2023, 108,890 fewer employees departed the NHS than in the previous year (122,970). Since its debut in April 2022, the 'exemplar' pilot initiative has benefited 23 NHS Trusts, with hospitals receiving professional guidance to explore ways to keep staff engaged, manage their stress and continue to provide a positive working environment.

In a drive to reduce staff sickness and improve wellbeing, United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust trialled weekly menopause clinics for their staff which was led by the trust’s wellbeing team. This bottom up health initiative has saved the trust close to £10 million pounds on agency fees for temporary staff this year to date. Any staff member who is concerned they may be experiencing the initial stages of menopause can self book to the clinic. Here, they are triaged by a nurse and given advice on how to manage the condition, as well as being offered a range of wellbeing support available at the trust. The initiative has worked well at ULHT but may be limited in scope to those who have a higher female workforce – although the 1/3 ratio of older female workers here was still enough for ULHT to consider this innovative staff health programme.

Amongst the initiative is a range of stay-advocates from the HR department, covert and confidential advocates who give staff impartial advice on ways to maximise their fulfilment from work and tackle any issues before the trust is scrambling to look for new workers amidst a shrinking work force. These types of proactive steps are likely to spark other initiatives to pop up across the NHS for conscientious executives and wellbeing teams who could expand to things like male mental health support, exercise groups, weight clinics and fertility advice for staff.

Dr Navina Evans, Chief Workforce, Training & Education Officer at NHS England said: “This winter is going to be a challenging one for the NHS, and while staff will be going above and beyond to look after patients, it’s also important that we look after those helping us too. That is why we are almost doubling the number of trusts implementing our successful retention programme, which has helped prevent thousands of staff from leaving the NHS altogether – a crucial intervention at a time when our workforce is under so much pressure. But the NHS will not stop there, and as part of the first ever Long-Term Workforce Plan, the NHS will take practical and sustained action to retain tens of thousands of more staff over the next 15 years. While we will also recruit and train hundreds of thousands more people and adopt the latest tech to give our staff the support they need; so, if you are interested in working for the NHS, or have loved ones who might be, please consider joining us”.

Professor Em Wilkinson-Brice who serves as National Director for People at NHS England said: “Joining the NHS was one of the best decisions I ever made – it is a hugely fulfilling and interesting place to work – but we cannot rely on this alone to keep staff happy. That is why as part of the National Retention Programme staff will benefit from tried and tested interventions which have already helped thousands of staff members stay, and importantly stay well in the NHS. The NHS will go even further as part of our Long Term Workforce Plan, with staff set to benefit from better opportunities for career development, improved flexible working options, and improvements to the pension scheme so even more stay with us”.

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