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Lack of housing for Cambridge hospital staff ‘never been more acute’

A lack of housing for staff at Cambridge hospitals could impact services, a meeting has heard.

Addenbrooke's Hospital Picture: Keith Heppell (56619358)
Addenbrooke's Hospital Picture: Keith Heppell (56619358)

A meeting of Cambridge University Hospitals (CUH) NHS Foundation Trust’s board of directors today (Wednesday) heard the problem has “never been more acute” and the challenge should not be underestimated.

Despite renting whole housing blocks in the city, the board was told that 20 potential staff are being turned away every month as the trust is unable to find them somewhere to live.

“It is a problem and currently we have no solution to it,” said the trust’s director of workforce, David Wherrett.

He added: “Particularly for international recruits, we have to provide accommodation and we are having a hard time finding that accommodation in Cambridge.

“The university of course built a whole new community in Cambridge to meet its needs, but we just don’t have that capacity.”

He said the trust, which runs Addenbrooke’s and the Rosie Maternity Hospital, is having to invite staff to join other organisations because it can not find accommodation close to the hospital, adding it could compromise the CUH’s ability to deliver on its ambitions.

Chief executive Roland Sinker wrote in a report to the meeting that the cost of living in Cambridge is cited as one of the main reasons why staff choose to leave the trust.

He said: “With increasing rates of attrition, where we are now seeing a return to pre-pandemic levels (13.9 percent), we have a strategic focus on retention and how this can be improved.”

The trust’s overall turnover rate has remained above average for the sixth consecutive month, according to the report.

There are special concerns around nursing and midwifery where there is a turnover rate of 14.8 per cent, and among healthcare scientists, where there is a turnover rate of 17.4 per cent.

Mr Wherrett said the trust has filled up the capacity it has on its site, and he now questions a decision to convert previous staff accommodation into offices.

Roland Sinker chief executive of Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (CUH) . Picture: Keith Heppell. (56619272)
Roland Sinker chief executive of Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (CUH) . Picture: Keith Heppell. (56619272)

Mr Wherrett added: “Also, after the first few months staff look to move to private or other housing and that is hard. Staff have to make a choice about staying in Cambridge or not.

“It’s great to have a hot house in Cambridge, but it is also challenging and I don’t want the board to underestimate that.”

In March, Cambridge City Council was accused of “aggravating the city’s housing crisis” by promoting properties built on its land to overseas investors.

The council’s ruling Labour group admitted to holding two online “promotional events” for Hong Kong buyers interested in the private housing on its Ironworks and Timber Works sites.

But said both sites are limited to individual buyers only, with 25 per cent of the homes for sale available to overseas purchasers.

The move was slammed by the Liberal Democrat opposition for “stoking up the cost of housing from which local people suffer”.

The average house price for Cambridge is £520,261 according to the latest city council statistics published in December.

Meanwhile, the average private rent cost in the city per month ranges from £547 for a room to £1,283 for a two-bedroom property and £2,126 for a four-bedroom or larger home. The data covers the 12-month period from October 2020 to September 2021.

The data also shows that there were 1,920 on the city council’s housing waiting list in December.

There are also concerns about affordable housing in South Cambridgeshire, which was one of the key issues in the recent election. South Cambridgeshire District Council currently has almost 2,000 people on its housing waiting list.

Mr Wherrett and Mr Sinker both told the meeting that the trust is looking at ways to increase the accommodation that it can offer.

Mr Sinker also said it needed to make sure it has the best possible working environment and to also be ahead of the cost of living crisis. He added that part of this work would be building on partnerships outside of the hospital.

Additional reporting by Hannah Brown, Local Democracy Reporter.

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