Nurses will be offered supermarket discounts to persuade them to stay in the NHS

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Nurses will be offered supermarket discounts and cheap gym membership as part of efforts to persuade workers stay in the NHS, health chiefs will say.

Simon Stevens, head of the health service, will call for the wider rollout of schemes which have given staff savings of up to £1,000 a year on their shopping.

The plans will see nurses, midwives and other clinical workers offered access to promotions and discounts, in a bid to encourage staff loyalty.

Health officials say an NHS scheme in Birmingham – which gave staff access to discounts from 700 retailers, including Sainsbury, Tesco, Boots, Morrisons and B&Q – has helped the trust to keep its staff, at a time when others are losing workers.

Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust has cut turnover of nursing staff by two per cent since starting the scheme, which also gives workers cut-price gym membership.

The trust says its discount website, which has more than 2,300 users, helps staff save up to £1,000 a year.

Trusts across the country will today be encouraged to embark on “common-sense” methods to compete in their local jobs market.

Mr Stevens will tell a conference in London that the NHS needs to be more creative about finding ways to encourage staff to stay in work.

He will announce that over the last two years, such efforts to boost NHS staff retention have persuaded more than 1,100 staff to stay in the service – including 800 nurses.

Other measures tried under the scheme include a “transfer window” to make it easier for staff to move to new jobs elsewhere within the NHS.  And trusts have offered “itchy feet” interviews where staff get the opportunity to talk to managers about reasons why they might leave.

The programme will now be rolled out to all trusts and across GP surgeries, Mr Stevens will tell the King’s Fund think-tank’s annual leadership and management summit.

The NHS chief executive will say the health service needs to be more flexible, to respond to the needs of workers, especially those seeking family friendly hours.

He is expected to say: “As Europe’s largest employer with 350 different types of job opportunitiy, the NHS has always been an attractive career option for caring, skilled and determined staff.

“Three quarters of our staff are women but only half say the NHS is flexible enough as an employer. So as well as a need for action on areas such as pensions, it’s right that local NHS employers are now themselves increasingly taking common sense action to support, develop and retain their staff.”

Analysis also shows that since the beginning of the  scheme, national nursing staff turnover rates have fallen from 12.5 per cent to 11.9 per cent.

Prerana Issar, NHS chief people officer said:   “With staff turnover at a five-year low, it’s clear that the NHS is competing well with other employers to retain the nurses, midwives and therapists that our patients depend on.

“The National Retention Programme has had a promising start and we are now looking to roll out this scheme to other Trusts and into general practice. Getting the right workforce is not just about the number of people we bring in, but keeping and rewarding the team we have.”

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