London should look more to its own when assessing NHS recruitment challenges, says The King's Fund

Health care organisations in London should look more at the potential in their own staff and London's population when assessing NHS recruitment challenges, according to a new King's Fund report published today.

Grow Your Own: Creating the conditions for sustainable workforce development examines the strategies needed to make London's healthcare workforce more sustainable.

The NHS in London employs more than one fifth of the total English NHS workforce, however vacancy rates are twice the national average*. With London's population expected to grow by 850,000 over the next ten years along with the retirement of the 'baby boomer' generation, demand for health care and for skilled labour to supply this, is expected to grow.

By developing existing staff roles and looking to local labour markets for staff, the report suggests this will start to address the long-term challenge posed by London's recruitment and retention difficulties.

The report author interviewed key figures from London hospitals about the characteristics of organisations that have used 'grow your own' workforce approaches as part of mainstream policy. These include:

  • strong organisational motivation – recognising the role of an organisation in its community
  • clear responsibility for workforce change, aligned to service needs
  • strong leadership at board level and grow your own champions
  • effective ways to measure and evaluate success.

The King's Fund chief executive Niall Dickson said:

'The NHS has a very mixed record when it comes to recruiting and retaining staff and workforce planning has been fraught with problems. The approach adopted in this report is not a panacea for all the many challenges that lie ahead, but it could make a real contribution. Without the right staff we will not deliver the right healthcare.'

Report author, Gita Malhotra** said:

'Inspite of high levels of investment over the last 5 years, persistent workforce challenges still exist. The unique characteristics of the London labour market coupled with the anticipated population growth mean that we need now to consider alternative and creative approaches to workforce planning and development.

'A grow-your-own approach makes use of existing staff skills and also looks at how local labour markets can help to address these issues. By offering improved development opportunities, and more interesting and varied roles, NHS organisations can become more attractive to local people. Home-grown workforce approaches in the NHS are likely to recruit and produce staff with a high level of commitment and loyalty to their organisation'

Read the report: Grow your own: Creating the conditions for sustainable workforce development

Notes to editors: 

* A third of all NHS vacancies are in London.
** Report author Gita Malhotra was a visiting fellow in health policy at the King's Fund from August 2005 - June 2006. The project was run in partnership with North East London Strategic Health Authority. As of 1 July 2006, NHS London came into being as the Strategic Health Authority for the whole of London

  1. For further information or interviews, please contact the King’s Fund media and public relations office on 020 7307 2585, 020 7307 2632 or 020 7307 2581. An ISDN line is available for interviews on 020 7637 0185.
  2. The report Grow Your Own: Creating the conditions for sustainable workforce development is free to download from the King's Fund website from 3 August.
  3. The King’s Fund is an independent charitable foundation working for better health, especially in London. We carry out research, policy analysis and development activities, working on our own, in partnerships, and through funding. We are a major resource to people working in health and social care, offering leadership development programmes; seminars and workshops; publications; information and library services; and conference and meeting facilities.