THree "staff hotels" giving late-shift nurses overnight accommodation are to be provided in central London to ease the NHS recruitment crisis.

THree "staff hotels" giving late-shift nurses overnight accommodation are to be provided in central London to ease the NHS recruitment crisis.

The move is part of the Government's NHS plan to recruit 20,000 more nurses over five years. There are 15,000 nursing posts vacant in England, 5,000 in London alone.

Improving conditions rather than pay is seen as the key to attracting nurses back to the profession, with inexpensive accommodation and workplace nurseries being top priorities.

Lord Hunt of King's Heath, a Health minister, says the hotels will be close to hospitals for nurses who live a long way from work and have difficulty with transport on late shifts.

The London pilot scheme is expected to be followed by two others. If successful, the idea could be repeated across the country.

Nurses say unsocial shifts and lack of child care in hospitals have driven many out of the NHS, and rising house prices are forcing many from areas where staff shortages are particularly acute, such as London and the South-east.

Lord Hunt said: "This is in part due to expensive property prices. For parents working in the NHS, combining work and family responsibilities can be difficult, and it is often a factor in nurses leaving the service or not returning to work.

"By expanding NHS-sponsored and on-site nursery provision and child care, the NHS is making it easier for parents to work for the NHS."

A housing co-ordinator, John Yates, has been appointed to find accommodation in London for 2,000 by next year. His first success has been the redevelopment of a former university halls of residence in Lewisham, south-east London, into 125 units.

A second big deal is being finalised, which will provide about 225 places in central London for staff from up to five NHS trusts. The Government is also proposing to offer nurses cheap home loans.

In September, the London Accommodation Bureau will be launched, matching details and types of rooms available, with the accommodation nurses and midwives want.

A spokeswoman for the Royal College of Nursingsaid: "Nurses are finding it increasingly difficult to find an affordable home. There is an urgent need to bridge the gap between nurses' pay and mortgage costs in areas of high property prices."

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