Inner London hospitals face highest rates of nursing staff turnover, says The King's Fund study

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Hospitals in central London face nursing staff turnover levels of up to 38 per cent each year, according to The King's Fund research published in the British Medical Journal today.

Mind the Gap: the extent of the NHS nursing shortage shows the proportion of registered adult nurses who left their jobs in London hospitals in 1999/2000. Of a total of 33 acute NHS trusts in London, 19 had turnover rates of a quarter or more. All seven of the NHS trusts with rates of more than one-third were in inner London. Each of the five trusts with rates of less than one-fifth were in outer London.

The study found that turnover rates were also higher in inner areas of Birmingham and Manchester than in outer areas, though neither city had such high rates as those in the capital. In all cases, teaching hospitals had higher than average turnover rates.

Study author Belinda Finlayson said:

'Inner London hospitals are struggling to retain nurses. Turnover rates of more than one third are disruptive for staff and patients, as well as being costly to the trusts concerned.

'The NHS in London is trying to cope with factors beyond its control in its efforts to retain and recruit staff. High property prices, inconvenient public transport and expensive child care are making it impossible for many nurses to work in inner London hospitals in the years after they have finished training.'

The study also found that, nationwide, about one-third of new nursing graduates do not appear to be registering to practise. Of those who do register, a further 10 per cent do not work in the NHS in their first year in practice.

The King's Fund director of health policy Dr Jennifer Dixon said:

'To modernise the NHS, the high nurse turnover rate in the capital must be reduced. This will take concerted action across government. Affordable housing and improved public transport are needed urgently to help teaching hospitals to retain more of the nurses they train, or at least to keep them in the NHS.'

Notes to editors

Mind the Gap: the extent of the NHS nursing shortage by Belinda Finlayson, Jennifer Dixon, Sandra Meadows and George Blair, appears in the British Medical Journal on 7 September 2002.

For more information, or interviews with the authors, please contact Daniel Reynolds on 020 7307 2581.