A national campaign to encourage staff back to the NHS has come under fire for failing to address the service's retention problem.
The recruitment drive, launched last February, has attracted 5,000 nurses and midwives. But although the Government is hailing the return-to-practice campaign a success, practitioners believe that more should be done to keep staff in the health service.
Lew Swift, human resources director at Aintree Hospital Trust, questioned the value of high-profile campaigns.
"I have a long-held belief that when nurses want to come back they will come back. They are not necessarily attracted by glitzy advertising campaigns," he said.
"You might as well fill a wheelbarrow full of fivers and wheel it round the back and tip it into the boiler. I would say this campaign has had a marginal effect."
Simon Williams of the Royal College of Nursing said, "We think it is an encouraging start to the programme, but it is not enough to attract nurses back to the profession, you have to keep them there. You need a highly valued profession with good opportunities."
A spokeswoman for the Department of Health claimed the results show the NHS is "turning the corner on nurse recruitment".
She said it had led to 2,600 nurses and midwives returning to the NHS with a further 2,400 due to return after completing refresher training.
Finding staff is said to be especially difficult in the South East, in particular in Surrey and Hampshire, with many employers turning to overseas staff to fill posts.
Low pay, widespread changes to rota patterns, and training cuts are all said to have contributed to a growing recruitment crisis in the NHS over the past 10 years.
By Helen Rowe