East Kent Hospitals University Foundation Trust is piloting the “Family First” scheme across the organisation over the next few months. The scheme will focus on the Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, Hospital in Thanet where recruitment is particularly difficult.
Prospective consultants’ partners who meet the minimum criteria for a vacant role at the trust will be guaranteed a post, although they still have to be interviewed and accepted by the team they would be working in. If there are no immediately available suitable jobs – but partners work in a job which could be accommodated in the trust – they will be offered a supernumerary role for up to two years while they apply for substantive positions.
The approach only applies to partners – not to other family members – and the only staff group covered is consultants.
The trust’s associate medical director for remote and rural strategy James Hadlow said: “Through Family First we can support people to relocate by offering roles to partners of prospective consultants, giving them the peace of mind that they will both have a job with us.
“We believe it is an innovative approach to addressing the issue, that will help us stand out as a flexible employer and will encourage people to apply for consultant roles with us.
“We hope to develop the scheme in the future with our partners in the wider East Kent integrated care partnership, allowing family members to apply for roles in the community and even potentially in the future, with local authorities as well.”
The scheme will be reviewed after six to nine months. The trust’s latest board papers show that the lack of substantive consultant staff has been added to the risk register with a “15” (high) rating. However, the trust is also short of around 400 nurses to meet safe staffing requirements and 300 healthcare assistants.
However, Roger Kline, research fellow at Middlesex University Business School and a former director of the Workforce Race Equality Standard, said: “Self-evidently such a policy is likely to risk reproducing the patterns of employment already in existence.
“Given that in general within medicine the more senior posts are held disproportionately by white doctors, such a proposal would require to be subject to a careful Equality Impact assessment, being in mind the risk that such family appointments might run the risk of affinity bias if they were posts that would normally be subject to open competition.”
The trust’s 2021 WRES report shows around 40 per cent of its consultants identify as BAME and 43.5 per cent as white but that non-consultant staff are much more likely to be from a BAME background, with around 60 per cent identifying as such. The trust said it had not carried out an equality impact assessment as the recruitment initiative was not a policy.
“We are committed to having a diverse and inclusive environment where all our staff, patients and services users feel they can be themselves, and we value the differences that a diverse workforce brings to the organisation,” a spokeswoman said.
“We encourage applications from people of all backgrounds and members of our BAME staff network are part of interview panels to ensure the process is fair and inclusive.”