Recruiting over 100 new NHS staff – how we did it for Red Kite View

Hannah Cressey and Samantha Wragg inside Red Kite ViewOpening West Yorkshire’s new young people’s mental health inpatient unit was a four-year project with many challenges along the way. The unit, named Red Kite View, opened successfully and safely in January 2022. 

Finding the 120 new staff needed to open it safely was one of the biggest challenges and risks for the project – especially where clinical staff, and nurses in particular, are in short supply across the entire country.

But, we did it!

In this blog, our workforce resourcing leads for the Red Kite View project, Hannah Cressey (pictured left) and Samantha Wragg (pictured right), explain how.

Our challenge was to recruit 120 whole time equivalent roles for the opening of West Yorkshire’s new 22-bed children and young people’s mental health inpatient service, known as ‘Red Kite View’.

We developed a resourcing strategy working with clinicians, communications professionals, project managers and external partners to attract people from across the UK as well as from our local community.

We started in June 2020. By the time this £20m unit opened in January 2022 we’d successfully recruited all the staff we needed to open safely including psychiatrists, psychologists, managers, nurses, therapists, support workers, domestics, caterers, and admin staff.

How it all began

In June 2020 we began the challenge. We formed a project team of strategic resourcing experts from Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust (LCH) and Leeds and York Partnership Foundation Trust (LYPFT) to research the best skill mix, develop the staffing model, create new career pathways, talent pools and gauge interest in the appetite for working in such a specialised inpatient unit.

Our objective was to staff the new unit with people who would live our values and put these vulnerable 13-18 year olds at the centre. We engaged with a range of service users to make sure we knew what was important to them. This engagement helped us come up with a name for the new unit, which was Red Kite View.

It was agreed that we needed a diverse and balanced workforce that represented the communities we served. As part of this and our drive to widen participation in deprived areas, we aimed to create opportunities for people from the local communities in West Leeds.

Given the national shortage of clinical staff, especially registered nurses, we developed a creative resourcing strategy to safely staff the new unit by December 2021. One of the pillars of our strategy was not to ‘rob Peter to pay Paul’. In other words, we would not actively target candidates from our mental health collaborative partners across West Yorkshire.

Our six-point plan

Here’s a brief summary of the six main pillars of our strategy.

  1. Partnering with digital marketing agency One Black Bear to support a four-phase video-based social media campaign, targeting different professions across the UK and promoting our unique selling propositions. We built a dedicated recruitment campaign webpage where we could host all our employer brand value information alongside information about the service and the new building. The final phase specifically targeted nurses in London and Southeast England to promote the benefits of living and working in West Yorkshire alongside our generous relocation package. Below is the video we made!

  1. Creating new career pathways, such as entry level non-qualified roles for band 2 assistant support workers to enhance the support worker and nursing teams, as well as band 4 Assistant Mental Health Practitioner and band 5 Mental Health Practitioner posts.
  1. Attending eight relevant university careers fairs to drive interest from mental health nursing graduates and undergraduates, as well as several nursing recruitment events across the country.
  1. Developing a relocation package, which included up to £8,000 worth of support and dedicated help from specialist relocation and resettlement agency White Rose Relocation.
  1. Targeted marketing towards qualified nurses, including head-hunting and direct offers of interviews, and advertising campaigns across social media and through the Royal College of Nursing.
  1. Assessment centres for apprentices which saw 74 applications, 58 shortlisted, 20 interviewed on the day and 2 appointed for RKV with appointments for positions in our other services arranged.


Recruiting locally in a high unemployment area

We partnered with Leeds One Workforce team to offer entry level opportunities in Red Kite View’s local ward areas of Armley and Lower Wortley.

These areas have the third highest ward rates of unemployment and universal credit claimants in Leeds. We developed a recruitment package for roles such as assistant support workers, domestics and admin assistants.

We worked alongside Leeds City Council’s Employment and Skills team to market these vacancies via job shops, community hubs, local media and social media channels, and via local stakeholders such as ward councillors. To increase engagement and build trust, we ran webinars to showcase life in the NHS, and offered guidance on how to apply and give a good interview.

We continued to involve young people in the process with a young people’s panel established to interview some of our more senior positions (consultants, ward managers, psychiatrists etc.) with a 15% weighting given to their scores.

And the results are in . . .  

We successfully recruited all the staff we needed to open safely by the target date of December 2021. This involved recruiting most of our roles early and keeping new starters engaged through a dedicated training and on boarding programme.

We achieved a 90% staffing establishment with a 5.5% vacancy rate of band 5 staff nurses who are subject to a well-recognised national shortage, and we were therefore able to open our General Adolescent Unit in January 2022, with the Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit opening in February.

The Leeds One Workforce element of the project was a huge success. We saw 110 people attend our webinar, 70 people apply for a post, and 12 people secure a job, most of which had either been recently or long term unemployed or faced a barrier to successful employment previously due to a disability. Read about one of our new Assistant Support Workers Dorisz Fuko on our website.

This work has already been showcased in two case studies by NHS England and Health Education England.

These newly created roles along with our apprenticeships have generated new career pathways not only for entry level roles, but also for allied health professionals and registered nurses.

If you’re really interested in the data, check out our full Red Kite View workforce resourcing project evaluation report.

We’re proud to have been an integral part of this fantastic project which is now delivering some excellent support to the young people of West Yorkshire.