Employer profile: NHS, the UK's National Health Service
What it’s like to work for the NHS
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NHS services and hospitals help to treat us when we're ill, but what is it like to work for them? In this guide, you’ll learn all about working for the NHS, what apprenticeship opportunities are available, and how to apply.
All across the UK and includes hospitals, doctor surgeries, dental surgeries, and community clinics
Over 1.2 million in England
Allied health, dentistry, eyes, ears and throat medicine, general and non-emergency medicine, hospital medicine, healthcare sciences, healthcare support, pharmacy, nursing, psychology and therapy
People who like working with colleagues for the benefit of patients
People who are not interested in working in healthcare
Abigail Changer, who is the Careers Information and Quality Lead for Health Careers at Health Education England, tells us what it’s really like to work for the NHS.
What does the NHS do?
The purpose of the NHS (National Health Service) is to help keep people as healthy as possible, and to treat people when they’re ill.
We provide healthcare services in hospitals, GP surgeries, mental health facilities, ambulance trusts, local authorities, and in people’s homes where possible.
Where is the NHS based?
Depending on what role you choose in the NHS, you could work in any number of locations around the UK like hospitals, GP surgeries, community clinics, pharmacies, mental health facilities, prisons, or ambulance services.
What is the NHS’ work environment like?
The work environment can really vary depending on your role. For example, if you’re a nurse or receptionist in the Accident & Emergency department then it can feel very pressured at times. But these roles can also be really exciting and rewarding!
If you work in a more administrative role in the NHS, for example as an accountant or secretary, then you’ll work to deadlines and targets during some parts of the year so it can be quite intense, but at other times the pace of work may be slower.
The NHS has a strong ethos of everyone working together as a team for the benefit of patients. Everyone is a cog in a huge wheel, and all our roles are as important as each other!
How does the NHS meet the needs of employees with additional requirements?
We welcome everyone into the NHS with the right skills and values, and we make adjustments to support everyone to do their job, no matter what their needs are.
There are some jobs that require certain physical capabilities, for example surgeons need good eyesight, and mechanics and porters need a certain level of physical strength.
Whatever your needs though, don’t let them put you off considering a career in the NHS. There really is something for everyone!
Who would be the right fit for the NHS?
We’re keen to hear from anyone who shares and is committed to the NHS values.
This means that you’ll be someone who’s keen to work with colleagues for the benefit of patients. It also means that you’ll treat everyone with respect, and that you’re committed to making a difference to people’s lives.
What are some of the most common roles in the NHS?
The NHS has people in more than 350 careers to make sure it runs efficiently. We’re sure you’ll know about nurses, doctors, midwives, and paramedics. But we also need audiologists, IT specialists, healthcare scientists, mental health practitioners, podiatrists and more.
What are some of the most common entry level roles in the NHS?
The NHS has lots of different ways that you can start your career. If studying at university feels right for you, you could study to become a nurse, midwife, or physiotherapist.
An apprenticeship can be a great option too and the NHS offers these at different levels.
Most staff in the NHS are on a national pay system called Agenda for Change. Depending on your role, you could earn between £20,270 and £109,475 per year.
A typical week also depends on your role and whether you’ll need to work shifts, but people on Agenda for Change terms and conditions work 37.5 hours a week.
How can someone join the NHS at entry level?
In the same way that the NHS has hundreds of roles, there are also lots of different ways to start your NHS career!
An assistant or technician role is a great way to get started and will mean you could be in the right place when a degree apprenticeship becomes available, or alternatively you could apply for an apprenticeship straightaway.
If you already have a degree, one of the NHS graduate schemes could be perfect for you. Some of the programmes include our management scheme, our digital, data and technology scheme for anyone interested in health informatics, and our NHS Scientist Training Programme.
What are the entry requirements for these roles?
The entry qualifications for the NHS depends on the role. Give the NHS careers quiz a go to get some ideas and then check out the relevant pages on the Health Careers website for more information.
What skills does the NHS look for in applicants?
When you apply for a job in the NHS, the people assessing your application will score your answers according to the job description – this means that it’s really important to use your application to tell us how and why you think you’d be great at the job!
Mention any caring or customer service experience that you’ve had. And – familiarise yourself with the NHS values as you’ll definitely be asked about how you would bring these values to life if you were to work in the NHS.
What are some top tips to help an entry level applicant succeed at getting into the NHS?
Keep an open mind and remember the NHS needs people in all sorts of roles and many of these you may not have even heard of.
Find out as much as you can about the NHS in your area and the services they provide as this will help you get a feel for the types of jobs available.
Register with the NHS Jobs website to make sure you get alerts for new opportunities.
What work experience or internship opportunities are there with the NHS?
NHS organisations differ in what they can offer, so contact them to see how you might be able to get some experience. There are some great online work-related learning and simulation activities you could try too like Springpod and Observe GP.
What opportunities are there for progression in the NHS?
The NHS is a great place to grow and learn and once you’re in, we’ll be keen to support you to stay and develop your career.
The pace of change and technological developments in the NHS means that we’ll always need new skills and experience so there are opportunities to change careers as you progress.
Our pay progression is based on gaining knowledge, experience and skills so this is another great reason to progress your career within the NHS!
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