NHS turns to supermarkets

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The Independent Online
THE NATIONAL Health Service is turning to the supermarket check- out counter as it tackles the worst nursing shortage in 25 years, writes Mark Rowe.

NHS executives are studying the "family friendly" policies of the supermarket chain Asda in an attempt to improve working hours for nurses with families. Senior NHS trust members believe superstores may offer valuable lessons in how to stem the exodus of nursing staff.

The issue of flexible shifts is second only to pay as a reason for leaving the nursing profession.

Almost 60 per cent of nurses are caring for dependent children, but only a third of employers provide childcare. Many nurses are unable to work and meet commitments to their children, including taking and picking them up from school or looking after them when they are ill.

Maternity leave of up to 40 weeks, paternity leave, "child breaks" from work of five years, shifts based around school hours and holidays, part- time job shares and adoption leave are now widely employed in the retail and food industry.

Health service officials believe such policies will help stem the loss of skilled nurses, many of whom are in their late 20s and early 30s.