Hiring target for nurses met three years early

7 Feb 02
The government has given nurses renewed hope of higher wages and more flexible working hours after it revealed that the NHS had reached its target of recruiting an extra 20,000 nurses three years early.

08 February 2002

The NHS Plan, published in 2000, promised the additional nurses by September 2004. But figures released by the Department of Health this week showed a net increase of 20,740 by September last year.

But the department is doing less well on doctor recruitment. The number of hospital consultants has risen by 1,380, against a target of 7,500 by 2004. GP recruitment has been even more sluggish.

Health Secretary Alan Milburn has signalled that the current Agenda for Change talks on all staff pay and conditions will be used to improve the retention of nurses, who are leaving the profession in droves.

'We will continue our recruitment campaign – indeed we will launch the third year of it later this month – but I believe it is now time to switch the emphasis from nurse recruitment to nurse retention,' he said. 'We cannot have nurses coming into the NHS through the front door but find more leaving through the back door.'

Royal College of Nursing general secretary Beverly Malone insisted: 'To retain our nurses we must value them through improvements to working lives, career development and pay,' she said.

GPs and consultants are in the middle of their own contract negotiations. The British Medical Association welcomed the increases in consultant numbers, but its chair, Ian Bogle, added: 'The government faces an even bigger challenge in general practice. The rate of expansion is woefully inadequate.'


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