Project RETAIN – improving recruitment and retention of nursing staff in older people’s wards

Retain logo

In 2017 the Public Health Agency (PHA) was successful in securing a significant grant for ‘Project RETAIN’ from the Burdett Trust for Nursing. The funding supported an innovative regional initiative in partnership with local Health and Social Care Trusts, the Department of Health, Age NI and nurse education providers. The aim of Project RETAIN was to improve nurse retention and recruitment in care of older people’s settings in Northern Ireland.

On Wednesday 24th October the project’s successes will be showcased and celebrated at an event in Antrim. The event will have contributions from a range of speakers, culminating in an awards presentation ceremony. Guests include Shirley Baines, Chief Executive of The Burdett Trust for Nursing and Charlotte McArdle, Chief Nursing Officer.

 Charlotte McArdle, Chief Nursing Officer, said: Ageing populations can be regarded as one of humanity’s greatest achievements because the trend reflects the many significant advances in health and the overall quality of life. People are living longer thanks to better conditions at home and work, the use of vaccines to prevent what used to be fatal infections, earlier diagnosis, and better treatment of illness when it occurs.

“It is therefore important that with an ageing population we continue to build on nursing workforce initiatives in Northern Ireland and help to retain and build a resilient and skilled workforce in care of older people settings here. One of the key drivers for applying to Burdett Trust for Nursing was to identify and support key objectives for Project RETAIN, that would encourage nursing staff to develop their career in areas where it has been more difficult to recruit staff.”

Gillian McCorkell, RETAIN Project Lead at the PHA, added: “The funding received was used to roll the project out regionally and to support identified training and resources. The project objectives were realised through a number of different initiatives, including a collaboration with Age NI.

“Peer facilitators from Age NI engaged with nursing staff on wards and with students undertaking their pre-registration training, to deliver a series of action learning sets which focused on the core issues that matter to older people who are receiving nursing care.

“When we first launched Project RETAIN, there  was a total of 47 vacant staff nursing posts across ten wards that participated in the project. Whilst there are still some vacancies, this has significantly reduced by 66% to 16 vacant posts. Staff satisfaction has also significantly improved in the majority of the wards that participated.

“Working in partnership, utilising  a co-production model with Age NI, ensured that the voice and experience of older people was central to the learning brought to nursing in older people’s settings. This approach will support the development of a competent and stable nursing workforce for an ageing population.

Mary Hinds, Director of Nursing and Allied Health Professionals at the PHA, concluded: “Although Project RETAIN is now complete, we hope that the successes we achieved will have a legacy, not only within the wards that participated, but also within further hospital and care home settings for older people.

“We will continue to share the learning and transfer the knowledge in order to help us retain skilled and resilient nursing workforce, not only in care of older people’s hospital settings, but in all care settings across Northern Ireland.”


Notes to editors:

A list of the ten wards that participated in Project RETAIN across all five health and social care boards:

Belfast Health and Social Care Trust:

7 North Belfast City Hospital

 Northern Health and Social Care Trust

Rehab ward Causeway

Rehab/Care of Older Person Ward Mid-Ulster

South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust

3b Ulster Hospital

Ward 14 Lagan Valley

 Southern Health and Social Care Trust

Level 4 Daisy Hill

Ward 3 Lurgan Hospital

 Western Health and Social Care Trust

Ward 3 Watersgide

Ward 42 Altnagelvin

Rehab Ward Omagh