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Attracting and retaining nurses through a clinical fellowship programme

10 October 2019
Volume 28 · Issue 18


Shortages in nursing are the single biggest and most urgent workforce issue that the NHS needs to address. This article sets out the early success of the Nurse Clinical Fellowship Programme established by The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust. The unique programme aims to attract and retain nurses by offering a staff nurse post with supported access to academia, fully funded by the NHS Trust. To date, the Trust has attracted 90 nurses (both UK and international registered nurses) to the programme. The programme is also offered internally and the Trust has a cohort of 10 internal nursing staff enrolled onto the programme completing either their BSc (top-up) or Masters, with a second cohort of 60 internal nurses due to start in September 2019. To support international registered nurses with demonstrating their competence to meet Nursing and Midwifery Council requirements the Trust has also established an objective structured clinical examination preparation course designed to embrace and enhance the existing knowledge and skills, while guiding staff in transferring these in line with UK and Trust policies and practices.

The NHS is the world's largest employer of highly skilled professionals (NHS England and NHS Improvement, 2019). However, despite the scale of its workforce, the NHS does not have enough staff to meet demand, with the highest number of advertised vacancies found in ‘nursing and midwifery’—at nearly 40 000 (Rolewicz and Palmer, 2019). It is estimated that 80% of nurse vacancies and 90% of doctor vacancies are being filled by temporary agency or bank staff (NHS Improvement, 2018), with spend on temporary staffing to plug clinical vacancies costing the NHS £1.3 billion in 2017 (Britnell, 2019). Although efforts have been made to manage the NHS temporary staffing pay bill, it is a huge drain on already overstretched NHS finances. Using temporary staff can also be disruptive to health services and reduce the ability to deliver continuity of care to patients.

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