NT Workforce: Pay 'increasingly' important for nurse retention – Nursing Times

‘This is a situation that cannot go on indefinitely’
22 November, 2022 By
Pay has “significantly increased up the agenda” on the list of issues deemed critical to nurse retention, an exclusive Nursing Times conference has heard.
Professor Mark Radford, chief nurse at Health Education England and deputy chief nursing officer at NHS England, has given a keynote speech at this year’s Nursing Times Workforce Summit where he discussed challenges facing the profession.
“Pay, without doubt, because of the cost of living has significantly increased up the agenda”
Mark Radford
Nurses continue to “work under unprecedented demands and pressures”, he told the room of nursing delegates.
And worryingly, he noted it was such pressures that were “demonstrably impacting” whether nurses wanted to stay in the profession or not.
Concerns have been growing in recent months over the number of staff leaving the health service for better paid jobs elsewhere, and over the volume of younger nurses quitting the profession.
This also comes against a current backdrop of almost 47,000 nurse vacancies in the NHS in England alone – a record high.
During his speech earlier today, Professor Radford reflected on the growing importance of nurse pay on retention efforts and drew attention to impending nurse strikes.
Thousands of nurse members of the Royal College of Nursing have voted to strike across the majority of NHS employers in the UK over the latest pay awards for 2022-23.
The government is being urged by the RCN to open up formal negotiations on pay, otherwise strike dates and locations will soon be revealed in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Meanwhile, strike plans are currently on pause for nurses in Scotland as fresh pay talks commence there.
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Professor Radford said that while pay was an issue for the government and unions, “nurses have made their voice very loud and clear”.
He added that five or 10 years ago, pay would have been “number five or six on the list of things that people would have said are the critical retention strategies”.
“Pay, without doubt, because of the cost of living has significantly increased up the agenda,” he told the conference.
While pay was “a factor in retention”, there were other areas that must also be focused on too, noted Professor Radford.
This included work on valuing staff and on the “culture” they worked in, and also in providing more flexibility.
In turning to recruitment and to the nursing student population, key for Professor Radford was the need to widen access and participation into the profession.
“I do not want at all any barriers to exist for those who want to come into the profession I absolutely love,” he said.
It was crucial that “every person” across all communities had the opportunity to consider a career in health and care, he said, and it was for this reason he supported degree nurse apprenticeships and nursing associate programmes.
There had been “phenomenal growth in registered nursing degree apprentices” since they were launched in 2017, he said.
“I’ll be honest, they prove immensely popular,” added Professor Radford.
Meanwhile, around 15-16,000 nursing associates had been trained in England, 3,000 of whom have started doing their “top-up” training to become a registered nurse.
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The NHS has an “enormous workforce” despite the many vacancies that exist, he noted.
“But with that size, and the scale, comes really important social responsibility to support our communities up and down the country through employment, opportunities and careers that they may not have had before,” he said. “So, I think there is much we can do around this space.”
In addition, Professor Radford used his speech to address the need to support colleagues joining the nursing workforce from overseas.
Nursing Times has reported several examples of internationally educated nurses not being supported appropriately when they move to work in the UK and instances where they are being treated poorly in the workplace.
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“Some of our experiences [of] our international colleagues do not stand up,” warned Professor Radford, who added the health service had a “debt and legacy” to many nurses from overseas.
He added: “Their experience around disciplinary, around career progression, around racism across our NHS is just unacceptable, and it still continues to this day.
“The experiences of our international graduates [and] our international colleagues who join us are very different to White counterparts.”
It was everyone’s responsibility to address this situation, noted Professor Radford.
“It is up to everybody, it should not be those who are [from] Black and minority backgrounds who are outraged by this, it should be all of us who are outraged by this.
“And we must be making huge strides in terms of being able to tackle racism within the NHS and within society. Do not be a bystander. You are expected to stand and support your colleagues.”
His comments come as a new anti-racism resource is launched to provide nurses and midwives with the right tools to discuss, explore and challenge racism in the workplace.
Separately, Professor Radford also provided the conference with an update on workforce planning.
He highlighted that in the three years he had been at HEE, he had written some workforce plans with executive colleagues that “have never been published”.
He confirmed that the organisation has been commissioned by government to develop “framework 15”, which will explore what the health and social care workforce will “look like over the next 15 to 20 years”.
This is set to be published before Christmas, with a “more detailed” workforce plan to follow at a later date.
It comes after chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced last week that the government would publish “independently verified” forecasts of how many nurses and other staff the NHS needs, as part of a long-term workforce plan.
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