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Don’t panic when staff leave, NHSE advises managers

Published on: 9 Nov 2023

New NHS England guidance has advised line managers to ‘remain calm’, ‘not panic’, and ‘show kindness’ when handling staff resignations.

The Expectations of Line Managers in Relation to People Management framework, published on the NHS England website on Wednesday, contains guidelines on several areas for line managers, including equality, diversity and inclusion, recruiting and flexible working.

In the “managing exits” section, managers are told they are expected to:

  • “Support your colleague by showing kindness to them, respect their decision, and wish them well for the future”;
  • “Lead by example and remain calm, ie do not panic when key colleague leaves”;
  • “Use opportunity to reflect and innovate, ie should services be redesigned?”; and
  • “Be mindful that the colleague may have mixed emotions about leaving. Include them in planning any leaving event”.

Managers are also told they should “undertake an exit interview, or ask another manager if appropriate, to understand the employee’s experience of working in your organisation” and “consider skills gaps and risks of someone leaving”. 

Meanwhile, HR and organisational development teams are encouraged to “monitor leaver data to identify trends that may indicate that a team or manager needs additional support” and “take action where trends become evident”. 

The most recent data on NHS vacancies showed 125,572 full-time equivalent posts were unfilled in the first quarter of 2023-24, the equivalent of 8.9 per cent of the planned workforce. 

Meanwhile, the 2022 NHS Staff Survey – published earlier this year – revealed that 32.3 per cent of staff often think about leaving their organisation (up from 31.2 per cent in 2021) and 17.3 per cent said they would leave their job as soon as they could find another one (up from 16.6 per cent the year before). 

The framework is described as a “key element” of the health service’s 10-year strategy to overhaul its HR function, which was announced in 2021. It was developed with help from “370 line managers and HR and OD colleagues across the NHS”, plus the Messenger Review Implementation Team and the NHS Leadership Academy.