Shropshire Star

Shropshire hospitals trust considers measures to improve vacancy rate

Hospital bosses are looking at ways of providing flexible shifts for staff in a bid to reduce the number of vacancies and retain their current employees.

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The paper was considered at a meeting of Shrewsbury & Telford Hospital NHS Trust's board.

Across the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust (SaTH) there were 601 job vacancies in January, with the highest of these – 267 – in the Medicine and Emergency Care division.

Rhia Boyode, director of people and organisational development, told the trust's board meeting that there was ‘month on month improvement’ in staff recruitment but more shift flexibility was needed.

She said: “This is more about cultural mindset actually rather than the ability to be able to offer it.

“We have a flagship programme around flexibility and it’s encouraging that more people are being afforded it. We still have a way to go with mindsets around flexibility, there are still nurses leaving because they’ve not been afforded flexibility in their shifts.

“We need to think about how we allow people to escalate and raise those concerns to understand if it can be possible and if not where it could be, so we retain them rather than lose them.

“That’s the only way that we will attract and retain, particularly that younger generation, for our future.”

Introducing shorter shifts to wards areas is one of the ways the trust is looking at introducing more flexibility.

A bi-annual staffing report considered at the meeting on Thursday said: “Even though recruitment has been successful there still remains a high number of staff wanting the flexibility of bank and would prefer to work for temporary staffing and as such, despite recruitment, overall vacancy reduction does not reflect numbers appointed. Opportunities to offer flexible opportunities to staff and encourage movement into a substantive post should be maximised.”

Director of nursing Hayley Flavell added that one of the ‘cornerstones’ of retaining staff was the education offer and that the integrated education offer in the organisation was ‘really positive’.

Mrs Flavell added that they are seeing people ‘leaving quite quickly’ after starting to work within the trust.

The staffing report added that the Medicine and Emergency Centre sees the highest number of leavers whose length of service is less than one year.

The highest number of leavers across all areas by length of service is in the two to five-year bracket.

The trust's chairwoman Catriona McMahon said that on a visit to Telford College she was told about how they were preparing students for the reality of nursing.

She said: “When we were talking to the educators there, they were saying that a number of people who join the academy don’t really appreciate just how hard the job is both emotionally and physically.

“They’ve integrated exposure to some of the real-life experiences during the training, so that people who graduate through the academy already have a depth of insight.

“It’s important that people who join us know that the job does involve such things as working with people at their extremes of vulnerability.

“That’s why we lose people within the first year, stuff is being asked of them that they’re not quite ready for or can’t do.”

The staffing report highlighted the reliance on Internationally Educated Nurse Recruitment and temporary staff to cover vacancies.

“Due to high unavailability levels, particularly sickness and parenting and including vacancies the numbers of temporary staff are being utilised to increase fill rates in areas,” the report said.

“Reliance on wards providing substantive cover means there is regular movement of staff to cover gaps which helps skill mix of escalation but may reduce the skills and experience of staff across all ward areas as well as impact morale.

“Registered Nurses vacancies have increased but overall fill rates have shown improvement despite high level of attrition for nurse staffing and agency/temporary staffing use. Work is also focused on agency reduction with first priority to remove ‘off framework’ agency use.

“The Director of Nursing and medical director have confirmed they are satisfied with the plans in place and are moderately satisfied that staffing for nursing is safe, effective, and sustainable.”