Hunt promises affordable homes and flexible hours to retain NHS staff

Authors: Gareth Iacobucci 

Publication date:  04 Oct 2017

Healthcare staff in England will be offered first refusal to buy affordable housing built on surplus NHS land that is sold off, the health secretary has announced.

In his speech to the Conservative Party conference in Manchester on 3 October Jeremy Hunt also announced plans to offer NHS staff new flexible working hours arrangements to boost recruitment and retention. Hunt said that the approach, which would use a new app, would be piloted in 12 trusts from next year.

Alongside this, Hunt set out an ambitious plan for a 25% increase in the number of nurse training posts in a bid to train 5000 extra staff in the wake of Brexit. He said that the increase, which would include nurses training on the job, would be “the biggest expansion of nurse training in the history of the NHS.”

Hunt said that the announcement on affordable homes would help staff who often work long and unsociable hours to live closer to work.

“NHS staff struggle to find homes near work that they can afford. So from now on, when NHS land is sold, first refusal on any affordable housing built will be given to NHS employees,” he said.

Hunt also used his speech to offer reassurance to the 150 000 health and care workers from other European Union countries working in the UK. “You do a fantastic job, we want you to stay, and we’re confident you will be able to stay with the same rights you have now, so you can continue being a highly valued part of our NHS and social care family,” he said.

Responding to the announcement on affordable homes, Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers and deputy chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said, “This announcement will undoubtedly support recruitment and retention, an issue at the forefront of our members’ priorities. Housing is a critical issue for staff and their families.”

Commenting on Hunt’s speech, Chaand Nagpaul, the BMA’s chair of council, said it was “disappointing” that Hunt had offered no immediate, practical solutions to the problems “threatening to overwhelm the NHS.” He said, “Hospital, GP, and other services are struggling to cope with increased patient demand, especially from an ageing population, on inadequate resources and with widespread staff shortages. As a result patient care is being compromised daily, with eight out of 10 GPs saying they are routinely struggling to provide safe care. It is also regrettable that the secretary of state did not address the government’s pay cap, which has meant years of pay cuts and freezes for most doctors and other healthcare workers.”

Gareth Iacobucci Manchester

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