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During a recent journey to the far North of the UK, I enjoyed an overnight stay at Tebay services on the M6, located just to the south of Shap (a place to strike fear into the minds of anyone travelling the road in the depths of winter).
There is no village or town within anything like walking distance and the nearest significant settlement is Kendal or Penrith, both some 15 miles away. How on earth do they recruit staff? By offering better than average rates of pay, free minibus travel to and from work for all staff and… a paid day off on your birthday. They advertise all of this on the sides of their staff minibuses.
In recent years, via the Academy of Fabulous Stuff, I have been impressed by the efforts of the primary care practice in Millom, a small village also in Cumbria, to recruit a GP. Their usual approach had failed so, via a plan that involved almost the entire community, they created an advert extolling the virtues of the remote but picturesque location which Millom occupies.
The vacancy was promptly filled.
Meanwhile I am currently reading War Doctor by David Nott, an emotionally moving account of life as a volunteer doctor and surgeon in some of the most troubled regions of the world. Medicins San Frontiers don’t sugar coat the likely experience when recruiting volunteers from the medical profession and yet attract a steady stream of people prepared to put themselves in peril so as to save lives.
The Nuffield Trust reported that there were more than 100,000 full time staff vacancies in the NHS in December 2019 (Covid has meant that NHS digital has not published recent analysis). Odds are that you work in a department or function which has vacancies and that is before we get to the issue of how to tackle the backlog in elective and serious disease surgery.
Why is the NHS facing such a serious staffing crisis? The answers are myriad but encompass all sorts of issues around gender, race, pay, childcare, conditions, Brexit and policy. The recently published People Plan will endeavour to address many of these and I wish it well but perhaps I might offer a further idea?
The best of the NHS and social care is breathtaking in its brilliance and humanity. Perhaps we would do well to reinforce this in the approach taken for recruitment. Looking from within at the standard recruitment notices and advertisements online and in rare printed form, we don’t seem to be terribly good at presenting the positive and ‘selling’ our career opportunities.
Perhaps we might borrow some inspiration from Tebay?
Enjoy your weekend, stay safe, stay strong and thank you for the brilliant work you are all doing.