This project is under way, and will run until July 2022.

  • Being run by the University of Sheffield.
  • Research project to investigate variation in, and determinants of, mental health care staff retention.
  • Aiming to better understand how organisational contexts and the experiences of registered health care staff in the workplace influence staff retention, and how this is associated with patient outcomes.
  • The evidence gained will be used to form the basis of recommendations on how staff retention in mental health care can be improved across the NHS.

Mental health care has, on average, higher turnover of staff than the rest of the NHS – 13.6% of all mental health staff left in 2015/16, compared with 8.6% in acute NHS trusts. In the year to June 2017, one in eight of the sector’s workforce left the NHS, and one in 10 posts were vacant.

The determinants of staff retention in mental health care are likely to be multi-factorial. For example, it may not be a violent incident that causes someone to consider leaving their job, but rather the response to that incident from colleagues and managers, and how that affects their perception of safety at work.

This project will investigate variation in staff retention across the UK, in order to better identify and understand its determinants.

The project team will explore the effects of organisational context, staff characteristics, roles, workplace practices and experiences at work in determining retention. They will also analyse how these factors are associated with patient outcomes.

A review of the evidence on interventions to improve staff retention will be undertaken. Routinely collected data from mental health trusts about staff experiences, leaving rates, mental health service use by patients, and patient satisfaction will be examined, as well as the extent to which variation between trusts is explained by organisational context and trust-level staff turnover rates.

These data will inform in-depth case studies, and the evidence will be brought together to identify good practice. Recommendations will then be made on how staff retention can be improved, and which interventions are effective.

Contact details

For more information about this project, please contact Emily Wood, Research Fellow, University of Sheffield.

About this programme


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