Affordable homes key to trust’s hiring drive

Hammersmith
Hospitals NHS Trust is considering investing in new flat pack housing to
provide its healthcare staff with affordable homes.

The
Livein Quarters, which were featured at the recent Ideal Homes Exhibition, can
be swiftly erected and cost about £70 a week to rent and £65,000 to buy.

Ian
Young, director of HR at the trust, told Personnel Today that providing
affordable housing for employees is a key part of its recruitment policy.

"The
main problem in recruiting here is that London is a very expensive place to
live and work, so as an employer we have to help staff with housing," he
said. "The Livein Quarters are something we are looking at as part of the
solution. Most importantly it gets staff onto the housing ladder, and that is
key in London."

Young
confirmed the trust is currently searching for available land for the Livein
Quarters.

He
said the trust is also in the process of building a range of modern,
purpose-built housing as part of its drive to help staff. "We are building
new accommodation for staff and have just sold three tower blocks to a housing
association which will deal with the rent for us. We also have some additional
on-site nursing accommodation," he added.

Providing
housing helps Hammersmith hospitals attract staff from abroad – a policy which
has significantly reduced nursing shortages. The number of nursing vacancies at
the trust has been cut from 25 per cent two years ago to 10 per cent this year
and overseas recruitment has played a big part in this.

The
trust, which recruited 189 overseas nurses last year, gives foreign recruits an
information pack on living in London, ranging from banking to details of
overseas communities in the city, to help them feel at home.

"You
have to put in place a whole raft of measures for staff coming from a different
culture. We spend a lot of time as part of the induction process trying to help
them integrate," said Young.

Vacancies
are advertised on the trust’s website. It also uses overseas recruitment
agencies to find nursing talent from around the world. Young said agencies are
used to targeting possible candidates, then the nurses are interviewed using a
video link or over the telephone.

The
trust, which has a turnover of £300m, has 180 vacancies among its 1,900 nursing
staff.

"We’ve
had recruitment problems similar to other hospitals around the country. We’re
starting to fill most of the posts and the number of leavers is dropping,"
said Young. "We rarely advertise individual nursing positions. We just
advertise the organisation and the hospitals to try to create a constant
conveyor belt of candidates."

Although
the nursing crisis may be over, Young predicts there will be staff shortages
for posts like radiographers, where there is a 35 per cent unfilled vacancy
rate at Hammersmith.

"These
types of post are not rewarded enough. Candidates have good enough
qualifications to enter any medical field and shortages are already forcing us
to look overseas," he explained.

Young
said the trust is also improving internal communication through the intranet.
He introduced a chatroom on the intranet for staff to quiz the chief executive
and the initiative has proved so popular that he is set to take questions
himself.

"It
is very difficult to manage communications in such a large organisation, but
people were very receptive to this. It gives staff the chance to get an
immediate response," said Young.

The
trust is now planning more sessions and hopes to introduce a webcam to make the
process more personal.

By
Ross Wigham

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