Your NHS Needs You

Your medical skills are of genuine value back home. At whatever level you’re qualified there are options open to you.

Back in 2012, Pontefract Hospital was given a major £60m revamp; quite a healthy sum that should have meant better and more efficient services as well as more capacity for local people. Sadly, within months, things had gone wrong and hospital managers took the dramatic decision to close the emergency department between 10pm and 8am. It wasn’t that the renovation work hadn’t been done to a good standard or that equipment wasn’t working; it was a purely human resourcing issue. The hospital did not have enough medium grade doctors to provide the required level of service.

A recruitment drive failed to produce the correct yield and after two months of closure hospital managers conceded that they might have to ask ‘Army doctors’ to step in. Although medical staff from the Armed Forces were never used, it was something of a close call.

Demanding work

The issues facing Pontefract Hospital were all down to three main difficulties. Firstly, a cut in hours under the European Working Time Directive means that doctors were (rightly) given better working conditions and fewer working hours as protection from the dangerous effects (to themselves and patients) of stress and tiredness. Secondly, a change in immigration laws meant that fewer doctors were being recruited from overseas and thirdly, that there was reluctance amongst junior doctors to work in Accident and Emergency (A&E) because of the demanding nature of the work involved.

The British Armed Forces still carry the deserved reputation for quality and reliability and it’s not really that surprising that the first thought of hospital managers was to call on them for help. At a time when others can allow themselves to lose their heads, Service-personnel are renowned for being cool under pressure, and ultimately, for getting on with the task in hand. It therefore stands to reason that the NHS or even other, private sector medical organisations, would certainly appreciate the appeal of recruiting Service-leavers qualified (or looking for further training) in the medical sector.

The NHS is the largest single employer in Europe with 1.7 million people on the payroll. According to NHS Choices, just under half are clinically qualified, including 39,780 general practitioners (GPs), 370,327 nurses, 18,687 ambulance staff, and 105,711 hospital and community health service (HCHS) medical and dental staff. Even so, as is well known, the NHS is in perpetual need of quality staff at all levels and with a massive variety of specialism.

Frontline services

In a weird twist, NHS hospitals are very often referred to, along with other institutions, as ‘frontline’ services in that they are the first contact for people with illnesses or injuries. In this sense, Service-leavers will immediately feel the familiar parallel of a pressurised working environment where, from day-to-day, anything could (and does) happen. It isn’t for everyone, but the high intensity of an A&E department for example, means that your experiences on that other type of front line are bound to come in handy.

Service-leavers that are already medically qualified are in an enviable position amongst resettlers. Those registered as doctors, consultants or nurses will benefit by taking skills and experience into a workplace that in some quarters is showing a skills shortage. As well as this, from a purely Military perspective the fact that separate Military hospitals have closed over recent years means that even the work you might have done in Ministry of Defence Hospital Units (MODHU) will have likely been done within a larger NHS hospital as host.

It isn’t just Royal Army Medical Corps doctors that go on to have further successful careers in the civilian medical sector. The fact is that any Service-leaver will have a good grip on some of the medical basics and may have much more experience in using (battlefield) first aid techniques than their civilian peers. There’ll also know at least a little bit about infection control and environmental health.


Bringing your skills to the health sector

Perhaps the icing on the cake is that Service-leavers are inherent team-players who individually are able to stand up and be a leader as and when required. The Military, like the NHS, is also a large outfit and couldn’t be expected to function without a properly respected chain of command. Many Service-leavers will also have experience in educational promotion, health protection and management skills, giving them a fantastic box of skills to delve into as they face new challenges.

There are so many different roles in the NHS that if you have any specific medical training there’ll be a suitable resettlement route for you. A combat medical technician (CMT) could, for instance, with extra training, become a qualified nurse, since there will be options open to those with qualifications already attained from City & Guilds or with National Vocational Qualifications to go on to study for a Diploma in Nursing Studies or a nursing degree.

Even today, medical professionals are likely to be trained within ordinary civilian hospitals meaning that the training is all but identical but with the added attraction to employers that you’ve worked at the genuinely sharp end of things.

Medically qualified Service-leavers have a good set of options regarding where they might resettle geographically, and from a professional perspective are able to move into different areas of specialism depending on their interests.

With a General Election just around the corner you can bet your bottom dollar or your last sticking plaster, that health is going to be a big issue. It’s likely to be a close contest and the NHS will be a key matter for all of the major parties to consider. What is certain is that none are going to want to be the party that understates the importance of the NHS as an institution. What that means in practice is that if you’ve got qualifications or have demonstrable transferable skills, you’ll always have choices in the medical sector.



The breadth of employment options in the civilian health sector is far more than we could ever hope to cover so here are a few contacts for further investigation:



0300 123 1233


College of Emergency Medicine

020 7404 1999


College of Paramedics

01278 420014


Health Professionals Council

0845 300 6184


Health Professionals Wales

029 2026 1400


NHS Careers

0845 606 0655


NHS Education in Scotland

0131 226 7371


NHS Jobs


Nursing and Midwifery Admissions Service

0870 112 2206


Nursing & Midwifery Council

020 7637 7181


u-i helpline

08000 150 850


Northern Ireland Practice and Education Council for Nursing and Midwifery

028 9023 8152


Royal College of Nursing

0345 772 6100


Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health

020 7092 6000


Society of Radiographers

020 7740 7200


Career sites

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