This project is under way, and will run until July 2023.

  • Run by the University of Surrey, in partnership with the University of Leeds.
  • Will carry out research into:
    • what drives hospital workforce retention, and its changes over time and across organisations and clinical specialties
    • what the causal effects of improving workforce retention are on health outcomes for patients admitted to hospital.
  • Will analyse data on the hospital workforce in English NHS hospitals.

Staff retention has been described as the biggest workforce challenge facing the NHS. High turnover and high vacancy rates are costly and affect staff productivity and morale, and ultimately patient outcomes. Improving workforce retention can lead to cost savings through a reduction in the use of temporary staff, better use of skills and improved staff wellbeing.

This project aims to improve the understanding of causes and consequences of the NHS’s staff retention problems. The project involves two research questions: ‘What are the determinants of variations in NHS workforce retention, in both acute care and mental health hospitals?’; and ‘What are the causal effects of workforce retention on admitted patients’ health outcomes (mortality, emergency re-admissions, length of stay and waiting times) in emergency, elective and mental health care?’.

The project team will use hospital workforce data from NHS Digital, combined with other existing databases, to uncover the association between workforce retention and factors determining its variation over time and across hospitals.

They will also examine the impact on workforce retention of a series of recent policies, such as the new junior doctors contract, the new pay/progression contract, and political events such as Brexit.

The results of this project will inform health care policy-makers, hospital managers and clinical professional bodies about the determinants of hospital workforce retention, and the effect of policies on this. It will ultimately help persuade local and national policy-makers of the benefits of acting to improve retention, and help them address retention problems.

Contact details

For more information about this project, please contact Giuseppe Moscelli, Lecturer in Economics, University of Surrey.

About this programme


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