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Knowledge Hub

NHS Improvement acts on staff retention

What can NHS organisations do to improve staff retention?

NHS Improvement has announced a major programme aimed at improving NHS staff retention in trusts across England by 2020.

The initiative, which will involve NHS Improvement’s ‘national partners’, will include:

  • masterclasses for directors of nursing and HR directors to discuss ways to reduce retention, and guidance and webinars on the topic
  • working with NHS Employers to explore how to build on that organisation’s current retention programme
  • targeted support aimed at improving retention rates for all mental health providers
  • implementing a tool designed to identify and analyse the reasons why staff leave
  • guidance and webinars on how to improve retention rates

The organisation reports findings showing that large numbers of NHS staff leave for unknown reasons.

The initial focus is on two groups of roughly 20 providers each. One group is providers with above average nurse leaving rates, while the other group will be mental health trusts with above average leaving rates for all clinical staff.

The Health Service Journal has published lists of trusts in both categories, and reported that NHSI nursing director Ruth May had said pay is ‘part of the equation’ and that having had a freeze on pay for seven years was having an impact on retention.

Secondary care perspective


  • From your discussions with contacts, do you have a sense of the reasons why staff leave particular trusts in higher numbers. Are these issues reflected in other trusts? Do these issues also cause rapid turnover among your contacts? How much do you think the issue of high staff turnover is costing the trusts you work with?
  • What do your contacts think will happen here?

Further information 

HSJ: Regulator takes action to tackle workforce crisis

HSJ: Revealed: 37 trusts targeted to keep staff in the NHS

NHS Improvement: Securing a sustainable NHS workforce for the future