News Opinion

Recruiting, Training and Retaining nurses in social care

Pamela Bruce, Managing Director, Nurse Plus

Pamela Bruce was one of the original founders of Nurse Plus when it was incorporated in 2005, becoming Managing Director in 2014.

Our skilled nurses are in demand. According to an estimate from the Royal College of Nursing, there were approximately 40,000 vacant nursing positions in December 2016 and I don’t expect this figure to have made any recent improvements.

There are a few contributing factors that, in my opinion, are causing this nursing shortage:

  • Student nurses are no longer able to access an NHS bursary, which saw a 23% drop in applications in 2017.
  • Although the NHS pay cap has been scrapped there is still uncertainty whether pay awards will match rising inflation.
  • Language testing requirements can be off putting for foreign nurses, even though this has been recently relaxed.
  • Following the Brexit vote, the Nursing and Midwifery Council has already seen a 96% drop in nurses from the EU registering to practice in the UK.

Not only do these factors make a career in nursing less appealing, but for some, very challenging. We are seeing individuals struggle with working 12-hour shifts and often facing unpaid overtime. This is putting vulnerable and sick people at risk as well as the health, wellbeing and safety of care workers themselves.

We are relied on by a number of healthcare organisations to source recruitment solutions. More than ever, as the industry faces their own recruitment challenges, our services are vital to provide short and long term staffing cover. However, as a nursing agency we are in steep competition with only a small pool of staff to recruit from.

It is not a viable business solution to buy into NHS frameworks due to the price caps on agency nursing.  Generally this means that some agencies are able to increase both pay and charge rates, and although they attract staff it is costing the NHS more in the long term. As demand outweighs supply, it is inevitably pushing prices up.

Nurseplus has continued to offer a dedicated service and recruit quality nursing staff, but as the market becomes increasingly difficult we don’t see light at the end of the tunnel any time soon.

Due to these industry challenges, we have adapted our business planning. Our ‘Total Recruitment Programme’ was recently introduced following a full review of staff retention across all of our branches. Over the next five years, we will continue to deliver highly targeted recruitment campaigns and further invest in resources, training and development.

Our training team has been expanded with over 45 trainers throughout the country, and we have added more practical elements to our training programme to give those new to care as realistic a learning experience as possible.

We are currently piloting an e-learning programme, which is available to all of our workforce, including nurses. This programme will allow individuals to access an online training booking system, view mandatory and optional courses, access appraisals and receive notifications updates. Nurses will also be able to use this tool for revalidation.

To solely support potential and existing nurses we have created a dedicated head of nursing position. This role will enable us to work much closer with our Nurses to establish the needs of our clients and fill evident gaps. We are looking at what makes agency work attractive to Nurses, and how we can become a ‘one stop shop’ for both our Nurses and our clients. We want to be able to provide our clients with the best possible service, during a time when quality and an understanding of their needs is paramount.

Our new business direction is important for the future, but we have not changed, we are just evolving as our business grows and the industry around us changes.




Edel Harris





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