Now Is the Time to Reach Out to Healthcare Workers to Return to Practice

The increased cost of living will drive people back to the workplace, how can we drive them towards healthcare?

NHS worker leaning on bannister

As I read the headlines this week, the message received is of how the increased cost of living will prompt a wave of people who had left the workforce early, to return to the workplace. If approached in the right way, this is an opportunity that cannot be missed by the NHS. 

Last year, over 34,000 nurses left the NHS, including 4,000 who took early retirement. This is not a one off. Similar numbers leave each year, meaning there are high numbers of skilled, clinical staff within our communities who could be called upon to return if offered the right opportunities. With this in mind, NHS organisations must consider how they can appeal to this skilled and experienced workforce and encourage their return to healthcare.

According to the 2021 ONS Census, 54% of individuals who have left work early state that if they were to return to work, it would be essential for them to be able to utilise their skills. Healthcare workers will want to provide care, but equally high in their priorities is that the role must fit into their lives allowing them to manage their other responsibilities, many of which revolve around the care of their families.

Through our work with NHS organisations across the UK, I understand that flexibility of people in order to meet the demands required within NHS teams is incredibly important. I also know that there is the need to think differently, the need to reach out to those once devoted to providing care to their communities, with an attractive offer that will bring them back to healthcare and bolster the overworked, overstretched workforce.

Tameside Nursing

There are currently 47,000 nurse vacancies and the prediction (or fact) is that this number will only increase.
We must do everything we possibly can.

Focusing on a targeted marketing campaign to attract back this experienced workforce, who will add value to the diversity and skills mix to support the younger and international nurses and relieve the current workforce crisis, should be the top priority of the NHS.

What is the route forward?

  • NHS leaders must think differently and creatively to make roles attractive
  • The most strikingly obvious point which is overlooked, is to have a very clear process for individuals to return to practice, and ensure it is easy to do – i.e. how can you assess skills to allow workers to return quickly, without having to undertake a University course
  • Define a matching process for skilled workers to return; a candidate matchmaker would be an incredible role to introduce within an NHS organisation!
  • Introduce or highlight any preceptorship programs open to return to practice
  • Could return to practice nurses operate in support roles and buddy / mentor newly qualified nurses?
  • Could they bring diverse experience to admin and clerical positions?
  • Could return to practice workers support the recruitment and onboarding of new nurses and healthcare workers?
  • Do not focus solely on qualified roles; an experienced HCSW is highly valuable and should be treated accordingly
  • How flexible can roles be? Can shifts be created specifically for this group?

Ultimately, the key factor in all of this is for the individuals who return to healthcare to be values aligned with the organisation they are working for. This can be achieved in much the same way as it was during the pandemic – through a call to arms, reaching out to a wide audience with a strong, clear message of what the opportunities are and who you want to fill them.

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Just R

Written by Rachael Bagshaw

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