Discover a new career in healthcare

Discover a new career in healthcare

By Ed Hanna

With the continuing hangover from recent years of austerity and the impact of the European referendum, the NHS needs to boost its recruitment in order to keep its services in good health and are looking to the ex-Military community for help.

The skills and experience of many Service-leavers are an ideal fit for the NHS, so could a new career within the health sector be just what the doctor ordered?

By Alison Dando

There are, however, some significant challenges ahead, not least in maintaining its level of staffing to ensure the NHS continues to provide the free, quality healthcare it is world-renowned for. And for ex-Service personnel, this could be an opportunity to make a difference by thinking about a new career in public healthcare.

Challenges and opportunities

Around 1.7 million people are employed by the NHS, making it the UK’s largest single employer. Despite its challenges, the NHS and its dedicated, hardworking staff remain an asset to be proud of.

Recruitment and retention are key to sustaining the NHS and maintaining the quality of the care it provides. Yet, with our political and governmental sphere currently in turmoil due to ongoing uncertainty caused by Brexit, the pressure on the NHS continues, meaning solutions to its current ‘staffing crisis’ need to be found.

Post-referendum, NHS staffing levels have been seriously affected over recent years. The number of nurses from the EU registering to work in the UK has fallen by 87%, from 6,400 in 2016/7 to 800 in 2017/8. But this is only part of the NHS staffing challenge; with increasingly stretched budgets, evergrowing demand on services and an ageing demographic within medical professions among a host of other factors that are collectively putting its recruitment and retention under pressure.

Last summer, the NHS launched its biggest ever recruitment drive in a bid to fi ll the estimated 100,000 health service vacancies around the country. While the £8m campaign focused on recruiting more nurses, where shortages are among the most acute, the NHS is also seeing a shortfall in other health professions and associated support roles. Increasingly, the Military – specifically personnel leaving the Services – are being seen as part of the solution to boost the numbers of skilled people coming into the NHS to plug the staff shortage gap.

Looking forward

To coincide with the 70th July, the Government has committed to additional funding, revealing an extra £20 billion boost every year by 2023. This means that the NHS’s £114bn budget will rise by an average of 3.4% a year as part of the Government’s ‘10-year plan’ to maintain and improve services and staffing levels.

The Royal College of Nursing, among others, have also called on the Government to ensure the current staff shortage in the NHS is effectively tackled. Acting RCN Chief Executive, Dame Donna Kinnair explained: “The number of unfilled nurse jobs is rising year on year, not falling. The forthcoming 10-year plan from NHS England is an opportunity to make a break with this situation.”

The Step into Health initiative

As part of its ongoing recruitment drive, the NHS has consistently recognised the opportunity of bringing more ex-Military personnel into its staff team. And, with NHS vacancies around the UK on the rise, it’s certainly a career change worth considering for former Service personnel with the right training or transferable skills.

According to NHS Employers, which acts on behalf of NHS trusts in England and Wales, there are currently around one million working-age Veterans living in the UK, with an estimated 16,000 additional men and women leaving the Armed Forces every year. To the 241 NHS trusts around the country, the team ethic, leadership, personal and professional transferable skills that Forces veterans can offer could be invaluable in bringing the health service’s recruitment back on track.

The Step into Health campaign aims to help the NHS maximise on the experience
of ex-Service personnel to fill medical as well as nonmedical support roles. A joint initiative with The Royal Foundation and Walking with The Wounded, Step into Health provides ex-members of the Forces with career guidance and opportunities within the NHS, including open days, work placements and apprenticeships.

Transferable skills

Although almost half of the 100,000 NHS vacancies are within medical, nursing and midwifery, there are also shortfalls in associated health professions, including
occupational therapists, healthcare scientists and paramedics as well as in non-medical roles such as IT, estates and clinical coding, to name just a few.

While the most obvious route to a career within the NHS is to use relevant medical experience or training from your time in the Military, there’s also plenty of opportunity to retrain.

Is a career in the NHS for you?

A second career in the NHS can offer a rewarding new role, with the opportunity for further training and career progression. Step into Health can help you take that first important step to a new career in the health service, visit:

Career opportunities

Here’s the lowdown on just a few of the NHS career opportunities open to ex-Service personnel:


The majority of nurses – civilian or military – need to complete a degree in nursing to obtain their Registered Nurse (RN) qualification. Apprenticeships are also available.

Minimum entry requirements: A Levels or accreditation of prior learning.
Pay – RNs earn an average of £23,662 rising to around £36,000 per year.


You can work towards becoming a paramedic via a degree or working up to the role as a trainee technician.

Minimum entry requirements: A Levels for the university course.
Pay – newly qualified paramedics start at around £23,000p.a, rising to £36,500 with experience.

Information analyst

You work at your local NHS hospital, researching facts and figures to check national healthcare standards are being met in your area.

Minimum entry requirements: GCSEs or relevant training/experience.
Pay – average salary of £21-26,000 p.a.

For more information on the full range NHS careers, visit: