A health trust in north Cumbria has successfully filled vacancies to its nursing workforce using a combination of ‘ground-breaking’ new approaches.

As well as recruiting over 350 internationally educated nurses over the last two years, a ‘grow your own’ scheme has seen North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust (NCIC) appointing hundreds of people locally into the Trust and supporting them to develop and train while they work.

As a result, the nursing vacancy rate at the Trust has dropped to 6.4% which is almost half the national average and the lowest it has ever been in North Cumbria.

The Trust is now sharing its successes more widely in the NHS as best practice in recruiting to rural healthcare.

To date the trust has supported 52 of our health care assistants through their nursing degree with 23 more expected to complete this year.  

Among those qualifying last week were Annabel Simpson who is now a community staff nurse after changing her career from a home carer.

She joined Penrith Community Hospital as a health care assistant and applied for her nurse apprenticeship which she has now completed after four years.

Amanda Dunkley, Assistant Director People Services at NCIC, said: “We’ve had to develop a sustainable and innovative approach to reduce our vacancies.

“At the same time as supporting qualified international nurses into the workforce, we have made sure that we also support people locally into our vacancies and the mass recruitment events we have run have been very successful.

“Candidates are assessed and interviewed together on the same day which has proven to be a very effective way to recruit to a large number of vacancies.

“Positive feedback from attendees included praise for the welcoming, friendly, and accommodating staff, as well as the calming atmosphere and interesting, informative exercises.”

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Over three hundred people have recently been appointed as health care assistants or home care practitioners in the last year at one of the Trust’s five mass recruitment events promoted locally within the community.

Jill Foster, Chief Nurse at the Trust said: “In line with many other areas across the country, addressing our workforce gap has been one of our biggest challenges and our staff regularly feedback that having enough staff is one of our biggest issues.

“As well as reducing our vacancy rate, we have also been able to increase our nursing establishment, so we now have more people in our nursing workforce than we’ve ever had.

“Our combined approach to recruitment has also brought us a wonderfully diverse workforce which has improved how we work as an organisation and I’m just looking forward to seeing that vacancy rate come right down as we go through the next few years.”