Staff recruitment and retention are a challenge. This a statement most would agree with, and some may think it a major understatement.

In June 2022 the Health and Social Care Workforce Committee reported that a further 490,000 jobs would be needed in the care sector by 2030 to meet demand. Yet by August vacancy rates rose above pre-pandemic levels at 8.2%. Add to this the doubled levels of sickness and absence, and we clearly have a crisis, that cannot simply be ridden out. Something needs to change.

A general consensus of opinion is that this is a workforce who have been and are under significant pressure but are still undervalued and under recognised. Something will need to change.

While some changes may be out of our gift, there is still much we can consider and review in our internal recruitment and retention strategies. Some years ago, in the early 2000s, there was a critical shortage of nurses from NHS services. A recruitment campaign was set up to run large-scale recruitment drivers across parts of Spain.

While international recruitment may pose many challenges, the lessons learned could be applied to recruitment, at home and abroad.

After candidates had been offered roles, support packages were developed. In the case of the nurses from Spain, this support started with initial flights and accommodation. This early engagement gave an opportunity for the hopes and expectations of recruits could be discussed. Our immediate aim was to fill our empty posts, it was clear that many were either already considering where this job may take them, and those who initially “just wanted a job”, responded well when they realised there was potentially more that could be achieved. The benefits to services were many, new staff looking to follow development paths, often branching into differing roles across the whole hospital system clearly helped with retention and turnover issues, but meant that these staff developed with the local provider’s aims and aspirations.

No one can underestimate the financial challenges currently faced by many in the workforce in the current economic times. Nor the impact this has, with better-paid, less challenging jobs out there. But those health services who took the time to listen and respond with supported development plans, development of extended roles and provided more general support, retained many of their recruits past the 2-year initial contract.

As John Dowey, the educational philosopher reportedly said, ‘The best tool for learning is ourselves’. What have we done that’s worked well, good, bad or ugly, and what can we learn? Valuing the workforce is going to be ever more important, and demonstrating it is essential.