The National Health Service (NHS) is the publicly funded health service for Britain that offers free healthcare at the point of use, funded by tax and National Insurance contributions. Established in 1948 by the standing Labour government, the NHS provides a range of healthcare options for people in England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.
Careers In The NHS
The NHS is the single biggest employer in the UK, offering 350 different career paths suitable for experienced professionals, medical staff including doctors and nurses, apprentices and graduates.
Although the pay scales for NHS roles depend on the type of job, NHS staff can benefit from a fair and transparent pay structure with flexible and competitive benefits.
Types Of NHS Jobs
Aside from the obvious medical professionals like doctors and dentists, nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants, roles in the NHS often involve non-clinical staff like administrators, HR, legal, researchers and other executive positions too. The NHS also has biomedical and research scientists as part of their staff.
Access to these career paths might need specific qualifications - understandably, if you want to be a nurse then you need to complete a nursing degree, for example.
For non-medical or clinical roles, applications are welcomed from career changers and experienced professionals, and there are a range of opportunities for apprentices and graduates, too.
For those with a first degree in psychology, human biology, or STEM, accelerated development programmes are available through partner universities for roles in nursing, or the scientist training programme. The accelerated programmes include:
- Occupational therapy
- Speech and language therapy
- Diagnostic or therapeutic radiography
- Nursing - adult, children, learning disabilities, and mental health
For other graduates, with at least a 2:2 in any other discipline, opportunities for NHS Graduate Programmes include:
- Management Training Scheme
- Digital, Data, and Technology
- Surveyor Trainee
The NHS Graduate Management Training Scheme is one of the most popular options, and it is a fixed-term, salaried position that lasts between two and two-and-a-half years, depending on specialism. You can choose between general management, HR, finance, policy and strategy, health analysis, and health informatics.
During the fixed-term contract, you can expect intensive foundation training, structured work placements, and education to help you gain a relevant professional or postgraduate qualification as well as specialist management development training.
How To Get A Job In The NHS
All NHS jobs are advertised through their website. Every month, 20,000 new jobs are posted to the website and can be easily searched to find the perfect role to suit you and your experience, qualifications, and skills.
All employees, no matter the career path, need to demonstrate the Values of the NHS Constitution which govern the way the NHS is run. These are:
- Working together for patients
- Respect and dignity
- Commitment to quality/care
- Improving lives
- Everyone counts
To see how this works, Health England has an e-tool that uses videos of situations that you might come across in a role in the NHS, so you can decide how you would deal with the problem.
Throughout the application process, consider these values and how they apply to you and your experiences so that you can demonstrate that you share these values.
NHS Application Process Stages
The application process varies depending on the role that you are going for - some roles might have more interviews or particular skills tests that need to be completed.
One of the most thorough application processes is for graduate opportunities, and the steps below are for applicants who are looking to take on the Graduate Management Training Scheme.
The first stage of the application process is to create an account on the NHS Jobs website. This will allow you to apply for roles as well as stay up to date on the progress of your application.
If you are applying for a graduate opportunity, there is a quiz called the 'Match Me Tool' which will help ensure that you meet the basic eligibility criteria, such as the basic qualifications, and right to work in the UK.
The online application is a standard form, where you will be asked to fill out personal details and information about your qualifications, skills, and any relevant experience. There will also be motivational questions about why you are applying to work in the NHS - keeping in mind the NHS Values will really help you to answer these questions.
You will also be asked to upload a current version of your CV, so ensure that you have a tailored CV available that highlights your relevant skills, qualifications and experience.
Online Psychometric Assessments
The NHS uses Cappfinity assessments to test applicants on their aptitudes and inherent skills. Cappfinity assessments are computer-based assessments that can be taken whenever you want. As 'adaptive' assessments, each test changes as the questions are answered to suit the level of the candidate.
Video Situational Judgement Test
In this assessment, you will be presented with a number of realistic yet fictional scenarios based on problems that you are likely to encounter in the workplace.
After each scenario, you will be presented with a number of potential courses of action and you need to rate them on how effective you think they would be.
Situational judgement assessments don't have a strict right or wrong answer, but they do assess your work behaviour and decision making skills.
This is another assessment designed to look at your work behaviour and personality traits. This self-assessment test is presented as a questionnaire.
This assessment is not timed and needs total honesty to answer properly. While it might be tempting to answer the questions differently in order to be more like the personality you think the recruiters are looking for, this could be damaging in the long run - if your personality isn't suited for the role you have applied for you will not enjoy it.
Numerical Reasoning Test
In the numerical reasoning assessment, you are not being tested on your mathematical ability, but rather your ability to quickly read, understand and analyse data presented in tables, charts and graphs.
There are three types of questions in the Cappfinity numerical reasoning assessment. You will either have to select the correct answer from a series of multiple-choice options, rank the responses in the correct answer, or perform a calculation.
This assessment is not timed, but your speed and accuracy will have a positive effect on your score.
Verbal Reasoning Test
In the verbal reasoning assessment, you are being tested on your ability to read, understand and analyse information presented as paragraphs of text. You can expect questions on grammar, spelling, and communication style.
This test is about your understanding of the English language and how you can understand written information.
Critical Reasoning Test
To assess your problem solving and critical thinking skills, you will be presented with a number of questions in the form of statements.
Each statement will be followed by four conclusions, and you must decide whether the conclusion follows or does not follow. In order to get the best result, you need to be able to make a logical decision to decide on the correct answer,
Your scores for each assessment in the online tests will decide whether you are taken forward to the next test - and if you perform well enough in all the assessments you will be asked to complete a video interview.
This takes between 30 minutes and one hour, and is a combination of 'normal' interview questions, such as about your experience, qualifications, and personality.
There will also be competency-based questions that will help you to demonstrate that you have the desired skills. These are likely to be based around the Healthcare Leadership Model - a series of nine dimensions of behaviour that the NHS want to see in their leaders.
- Inspiring purposes
- Leading with care
- Evaluating information
- Connecting our service
- Sharing the vision
- Engaging the team
- Holding to account
- Developing capability
- Influencing for results
To be successful in the video interview, you need to be able to provide examples of your own competencies in relation to these leadership qualities.
The final stage of the graduate application process is the assessment centre. Applicants attend a day at one of the offices to complete a number of interactive exercises to be fully assessed by the recruitment team.
Several candidates, sometimes for different positions, will be expected to take part in several different activities designed to assess teamwork, communication, leadership and other important soft skills. You can expect to take part in group exercises, role plays, and case studies.
Again, knowledge of the Healthcare Leadership Model will help ensure that you make the most of the assessment and present yourself in the best way to the recruiters and management. Remember that you are under constant assessment throughout the day, and the recruiters will want to see them in action.
You might be expected to take part in a face-to-face interview with members of HR, the recruitment team, and your line manager.
Tips To Get Hired
Provide Good Supporting Information In Your Application
Applying for a role in one of the graduate schemes means getting involved in some tough competition. There can potentially be thousands of other applicants wanting a place on the scheme - so you need to do all you can to improve your chances.
In your initial application, you might be asked to provide supporting information like your CV and proof of qualifications. Be sure to provide everything that you are asked for.
Prepare For The Interview
Research the NHS, the role, and the NHS Core Values alongside the Healthcare Leadership Model to fully understand what the recruiters are looking for in the role.
Preparation is key to your success, especially as you will be expected to give examples - it is much easier to do when you have time to think about it.
Practice Aptitude Tests
One of the most important things that you can do is practice aptitude tests. You know that you will be expected to complete Cappfinity assessments, so getting some good practice will make all the difference in helping you feel more confident because you will be familiar with the structure, layout, and question types that you will face.
Does The Role Match Your Skills?
It is really important that the career you choose matches your interests, but also your skills. To be confident that you are going to be successful in the role, you want to be sure that you are skilled and qualified.
A quick five-minute quiz on the NHS Careers site can help you match your skills to one of the 350 careers available with the UK's single biggest employer.
Frequently Asked Questions [FAQs]
Is It Hard To Get A Job In The NHS?
Roles in the NHS need well-qualified, exceptional candidates, so the application process can be rigorous. If you are a strong candidate, you should not find it too hard to get through the recruitment stages - as long as you are prepared for what is to come.
How Long Does NHS Jobs Take To Reply?
You will receive an email confirmation from the NHS as soon as you put your application in. This lets you know that your application has been received, and you will usually hear back within a week to ten days. If your application is unsuccessful, it is unlikely that you will receive any feedback due to the sheer number of applicants.
Is The NHS A Good Employer?
Working for the NHS allows you access to their fair and accurate pay structure, benefits, and further education.
Career progression is an important part of many roles, with internal transfers and promotions on offer to employees.
How Long Do NHS Jobs Take To Shortlist?
The time taken to get through to a shortlist depends on the role applied for - but the overall application process can take anything from a few weeks to a couple of months.
Your NHS Jobs account is the hub of your application. As you move through each stage, you can be notified of the next steps via email and SMS if you are signed up for the text message service.