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‘Bidding wars’ – Mental health trust offers golden hellos in a bid to fill 50 clinical vacancies

PUBLISHED: 06:00 12 April 2018 | UPDATED: 09:09 12 April 2018

Welcome packages are being offered to attract doctors and nurses to NSFT. Picture: ANTHONY DEVLIN/PA WIRE

Welcome packages are being offered to attract doctors and nurses to NSFT. Picture: ANTHONY DEVLIN/PA WIRE

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Golden hellos of up to £10,000 are being used to entice medical staff to the region’s struggling mental health trust, it has been revealed.

Dawn Collins, NSFT interim director of nursing, quality and patient safety. Picture: NSFTDawn Collins, NSFT interim director of nursing, quality and patient safety. Picture: NSFT

A union boss in the East of England has said NHS organisations are getting into “bidding wars” for skilled clinicians amid a nationwide recruitment crisis.

Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) is offering premiums of £3,000 for Band 5 nurses and £10,000 for senior doctors to take up hard-to-recruit posts.

The welcome packages are available for 41.5 nursing posts in Suffolk, and 8.45 doctor positions in the county. They are only open to staff from outside NSFT.

The news comes just days after NSFT was forced to temporarily shut Suffolk’s only psychiatric intensive care beds due to unsafe staffing levels.

Chris Jenkinson, eastern regional secretary at UNISON, said: “The managers of the trust have got to try and attract the talent that is necessary to deliver and improve their services and if they can’t do that without this being in their tool box then of course they have to consider this, but it’s a reflection of a chronic failure of workforce planning in the NHS and other parts of our care system which we have seen since 2010 and this doesn’t solve it.

“This trust pays £3,000, the trust down the road pays £3,500, and you are into a bidding war so it’s not sustainable especially against a backdrop of diminishing financial resources in the NHS, but it’s a scary reflection of the state that the NHS has found itself in.”

Mr Jenkinson said a reduction in overseas workers and the removal of nursing bursaries was driving NHS understaffing.

He added: “It will take a number of years of sustained investment to overcome the pressures we are seeing in the system at the moment.”

Dawn Collins, NSFT interim director of nursing, quality and patient safety, said: “It is not unusual for NHS organisations, including mental health trusts, to offer recruitment premiums which supports our strategy of filling our clinical vacancies and reducing bank and agency cover and expenditure.”

Staff are given half the premium on appointment and half six months later. If they leave within a year they have to repay it all, and it they depart before two years they have to give back 50% of the premium.

Ms Collins added: “The recruitment of high-quality doctors and nurses, as well as other health professionals, is essential to driving up the quality of care that we provide for service users and patients.

“It is widely accepted that there are national shortages of doctors and nurses and, unfortunately, Suffolk is not immune from this.”

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