Industry view: how can the NHS retain and attract IT staff?

Amy Freeman, Director of Digital and Digital Transformation at University Hospitals of North Midlands, took to Twitter over the weekend with a question that sparked an interesting discussion: “If the NHS can’t compete with private sector salaries, and private sector is matching pensions and annual leave, how do we keep our fab IT staff? We need other factors to compete? Office building and environment perhaps? Agile and flex working? Good professional development?”

Here we will take a look at some of the ideas and suggestions supplied in response to Amy’s query.

Louise Wilson, NHS Network Convenor, said that it’s about “normalisation of part-time and job share options at all stages of career and seniority – how many roles at [grade] 8C and above are designed and advertised as part time or job share?”

“We have to do better to look after people’s welfare as well as being a model employer,” said Anne Cooper, Non Executive Director at Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust. “Career paths, professionalisation, workforce plans that focus on working with local HEE partners… Make it worthwhile for people to stay because of total value package, not just money. You are right though, money matters too. We also need to get that more right than it is now. To think otherwise is naive.”

Matt Harris, Director of Digital Services for Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust, raised the issue of experience in recruitment. “Don’t look for NHS experience when employing IT staff,” he suggested. “I was lucky that [my manager] could look past that and allow me to even interview. Too many NHS organisations think they are special and you need the NHS background… if anything you need to get fresh and new ideas in!”

Rush Miah, Head of Business Intelligence at Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust, noted the importance of diversity in recruitment and in maintaining the existing diversity within a workforce. “More BAME staff in IT (especially at the top) will help to draw more to the NHS and keep our existing BAME staff,” said Rush. “They’re leaving due to lack of understanding of different cultures, micro-aggressions and discrimination. If BAME staff have BAME staff around them, they’ll feel more supported.”

The lack of promotion and progression opportunities was brought up as a key barrier for the NHS by a number of people.

Eve Roodhouse, Chief Officer for Culture and Economy at Leeds City Council, said that the NHS needs “good employment policies including parental leave, adoption leave, special leave etc. Opportunities for career progression. Strong story about purpose and impact of work.” She also suggested that there is a need to “use apprenticeship levy to create more opportunities to build skills.”

“People want to work in collaborative teams,” said Neill Crump, Digital Director for the Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust, “have opportunities for progression (this can include diversifying their skills) with the appropriate reward structure, have access to modern tech, in a positive working environment where leaders listen and folk appreciate their skills.”

Jon Rouston,  Chief Clinical – Digital Information Officer at Lincolnshire Community Health Services NHS Trust, agreed that collaboration is important. “I believe people, clinical or not, work for the NHS because they want to be part of something bigger and because they want to make a difference to people’s lives,” said Jon. “We are not very good at demonstrating to ‘support staff’ how they achieve these things, I think we need to get better.”

To view the Twitter thread, please click here.