How international recruitment is boosting nursing numbers at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth

As 2020 is designated the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife, chief reporter BEN FISHWICK examines the work of nurses in Portsmouth hospitals.

Thursday, 2nd January 2020, 11:30 am
Updated Thursday, 2nd January 2020, 3:12 pm

International recruitment has boosted the number of nurses working at Queen Alexandra Hospital.

Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the Cosham hospital, said it now has a ‘record low number’ of vacancies.

And with 3,188 full-time equivalent nurses in post as of the end of November, the trust said it will continue to recruit this year - the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife.

Sign up to our public interest bulletins - get the latest news on the Coronavirus

Sign up to our public interest bulletins - get the latest news on the Coronavirus

Queen Alexandra Hospital. 094418-24

The World Health Organisation has called the year-long celebration to mark the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth.

But in October the Royal College of Nursing warned of a 43,000 shortfall of nurses in England alone. Nurses in Portsmouth previously warned of ‘burn out' due to a lack of colleagues.

Throughout 2019, QA Hospital has been attempting to reduce its nursing vacancy rates, and cut its reliance on expensive bank staff. Bank shifts are done by qualified temporary workers to plug the gaps.

Vacancies for healthcare assistants at band two have reduced by 56.6 per cent, and newly-qualified nurse vacancies have gone down by 54.4 per cent.

Specialist research nurse Rosalynn Austin at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham. Picture: PHT

Bosses have recruited 245 international nurses, who arrived between January and November last year.

Chief executive Mark Cubbon has praised the scheme. Minutes of a recent board meeting said: ‘The chief executive officer highlighted the impact of the recruitment of overseas nurses.

Read More

Read More
Portsmouth nurses suffering 'burn out' demand action on unsafe staffing levels

‘As well as reducing vacancy rates, their positive effect on continuity of patient care was evident.

Advanced clinical nurse practitioner Sarah Parkinson at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham. Picture: PHT

‘In addition, those who arrived earlier had now become established members of their teams.

‘A number of wards were reporting that they had now fully recruited to their available positions. Recent improvements in retention rates indicated that this was a sustainable development.’

Turnover of staff has dropped from 14.5 per cent to 11.4 per cent. New initiatives aimed at staff wellbeing, and physical and mental health have helped this improve.

Liz Rix, chief nurse, said: ‘It is fantastic news that our vacancy rate for qualified nurses has reduced so dramatically.

Dr Isobel Ryder (centre left) with Dr Cecilia Akrisie Anim (centre right) and students from the BN (Hons) Nursing (Adult) course at the University of Portsmouth. Picture: University of Portsmouth

‘We have made significant investment in recruitment and retention this year, which has led to a considerable reduction in our nursing vacancies and turnover.’

She added: ‘It has been a real team effort to achieve this result and we look forward to welcoming even more new recruits to the trust.

‘Our success over the last year has meant that we’ve had to recruit to fewer posts, which provides greater stability to our teams and enables us to ensure a better continuity of care for our patients.’

The overall vacancy rate at the hospital covering all staff was 7.8 per cent in October 2019.

PHT currently has a £20.55m bank budget for 2019/20, and a £16.22m budget for agency staff.

Its employee pay budget is £301.84m.

The scheme aimed at driving up nursing numbers is set to be rolled out to include doctors.

Minutes from the board papers said: ‘The most immediate area for future attention would be vacancies in medical staffing. As with nursing, a business case was being constructed for overseas support in this area.’

And the recent efforts mean that spending is under a limit put in place on bank staff costs.

‘In terms of agency staff, the trust’s expenditure was within the ceiling set for this for the first time since this measure’s inception,’ the minutes added.

‘It was anticipated that the final total for 2019/20 would be compliant with this limit.’

Advanced nursing roles are also recruited at the trust.

Specialist research nurse Rosalynn Austin said: ‘I am a clinical academic research fellow so I work as a specialist research nurse two days a week and the other three days I am working on completing my PhD.

‘This means that in addition to helping make research happen at PHT, I have also written my own research study which has opened both here and at other trusts.

‘I love my role as I get to offer patients the opportunity to help increase our knowledge around their illness, so that others in the future will receive even better care. I get to help contribute and create new medical knowledge.’

Sarah Parkinson, an advanced clinical nurse practitioner, added: ‘This is an exciting time to become a nurse as there are much greater opportunities to specialise and diversify in your career.

‘I joined PHT as an advanced clinical practitioner in cardiology and have introduced a nurse-led service within the Fast Access Chest Pain Clinic.’

At the same time, more nurses are coming through training.

The University of Portsmouth's School of Health and Care Professions has its first group of students registering with the Nursing and Midwifery Council. The NMC is the professional body for nurses.

It comes three years after the cohort started training on their BA (Hons) Nursing (Adult) course.

Course leaders Dr Isobel Ryder and Pauline McKeever celebrated with students, together with Sue Hill from Health Education England and Dr Cecilia Akrisie Anim, former Royal College of Nursing president.

Dr Ryder said: ‘The last three years have brought a rollercoaster of emotions, from both students and academics, but the end of the course has finally arrived for the first cohort.

‘We are proud of delivering a programme in partnership with colleagues from practice and the programme has already been modified and re-approved in response to the changes in the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s standards of proficiency (2018) as well as student feedback.’

The university is the first in the country to be awarded accreditation by the Association for Simulated Practice in Healthcare.