The National Health Service (NHS) is the UK’s biggest employer, with around 1.5 million staff in total across the UK. With this well-established national institution currently desperately needing to fill both medical and non-medical roles, there is a great opportunity for Service-leavers looking to re-enter the labour market and to put their many skills to good use.
By Gary Buswell
The NHS has reached something of a crisis point in terms of staffing. According to recently released figures, staffing levels are the worst they have ever been. NHS Improvement, the public body that oversees NHS Trusts in England, reported that there are currently over 107,000 unfilled posts, up by nearly 10,000 from this time last year. This includes vacancies for around 42,000 nurses and 11,000 doctors.
It is feared that things could get worse as winter approaches. The winter period has become the point in the year where the NHS is stretched to its limit. Last year was reported to be the worst on record, with stories of bed shortages, patients forced to wait in corridors, and extensive delays in A&E departments. Unless jobs are filled quickly, we face another ‘annual crisis’ which will worsen as temperatures drop.
Another ongoing problem is the situation regarding Brexit, which has had an impact on staff numbers. The NHS relies heavily on overseas staff including many from EU countries. Around 63,000 NHS staff in England are overseas EU nationals – 5.6% of all staff. Since the EU referendum result in 2016, there has been an 87% fall in the number of EU nurse registrations as well as a 4% rise in the number of nurses leaving the NHS. The Department of Health has already predicted that things could get worse if freedom of movement is restricted after Brexit takes effect.
Why the NHS is a good fit for Service-leavers
The NHS could be ideal for Service-leavers looking to start a new career or perhaps retrain. Many ex-Forces personnel have gone on to thrive in NHS careers, naturally settling into an environment where you need to work well under pressure and pay attention to detail.
Those with medical skills who have experienced working in Military healthcare are in a good position to fill clinical vacancies within the NHS. As well as the required medical skills, working in the Forces will have equipped you with many other transferable abilities invaluable to the NHS such as leadership skills, organisational skills, decision-making and teamwork.
But there isn’t just a need for doctors, nurses and trained medical staff. Around half of the 350 different careers you can pursue within the NHS are non-clinical, taking place in settings ranging from hospitals and GP surgeries to working in offices or communities.
The NHS has positions to suit a range of technical and transferable skills in fields as diverse as IT, catering and accounting. Good leadership skills developed in the Military would be a great asset for a managerial post at an NHS Trust, for instance while organisational skills would be well suited to an administrative job in a hospital or health centre. If you have strong communication and interpersonal skills, you could look at roles related to public health or social care. Meanwhile, technical or analytical skills can be put to good use. For example, one ex-Serviceperson who had a job in the Army repairing weapons found that he could apply his abilities to making artificial limbs.
A good time to look for a role within the NHS
The Government has acknowledged the NHS staffing crisis and recently pledged to increase funding by £20.5 billion per year by 2023. An £8 million recruitment drive was announced in July, initially focusing on filling the nursing shortfall but expanding into more general areas.
This makes it a great time for Service-leavers interested in a new challenge to explore the possibilities of a career within the NHS. Indeed, specifically for Armed Forces personnel looking for a career move, there is a special NHS programme called Step Into Health. This is open to all Service-leavers and Veterans as well as their spouses and partners. The programme offers support such as career development and job matching to help ex-Forces candidates discover roles that they will find rewarding and that are well-suited to their skills, interests and experiences.
Step Into Health was launched in 2014 and has been immensely successful in helping Service-leavers transition into a post-Forces career. Around 78% of those who have taken part in the scheme have either found a job within the NHS or within the wider healthcare field, or gone into healthcare-related education or training.
The Step Into Health website features case studies highlighting some of the interesting areas of work that having a Military background can take you into.
These include a Brigade Ordnance Warrant Officer who now works as a head of facilities management, a gunner who retrained as a physiotherapist and an Army Corporal who used his communication skills to secure a role as a people advisor.
Your knowledge, skills and talents are all useful to the NHS and the timing could hardly be better to take a look at what’s on offer.
NHS Health Careers
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