NHS launches innovative new drive to recruit armed forces veterans

The NHS is stepping up a national campaign to recruit former members of the Armed Forces who want to join the health service and offer their valuable skills to caring for patients.

Running until March 2025, the new NHS Long Term Workforce Plan drive will encourage serving and retired armed forces personnel and their families to consider a career in one of the 14 allied health professions on offer in the health service.

Universities across England will host a series of open days across the country, who will use innovative technology to give attendees a virtual, real-time insight into some of the different careers on offer.

The first event will showcase careers in occupational therapy and will be hosted by Guys and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and broadcast across five different university campuses.

Attendees will be able to watch an occupational therapist treat patients in real time from the point of view of the clinician who is wearing a digital headset. A second clinician will describe what their colleague is doing through a separate audio feed.

Each year at least 12,000 military personnel leave their roles in the armed forces for a variety of reasons, with many of them looking to switch career after completing their service.

Their transferable skills, including leadership, resilience and compassion, leave them with much to offer the NHS, and many already meet the entry requirements to undertake a suitable training programme.

The collaboration between NHS England, Guys and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and participating universities, will support the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan ambition to have 71,000 more allied health professionals in place by 2036/37.

Allied health professions make up the third largest workforce in the NHS, behind doctors and nurses, and range from dietitians, radiographers and paramedics to podiatrists, orthotists, operating department practitioners and others.

Backed by government investment, the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan sets out how record numbers of doctors, nurses, dentists and other healthcare professionals will be trained in England.

Navina Evans, Chief Workforce Officer at NHS England, said: “This campaign is a fantastic example of the NHS finding new and innovative ways to showcase the brilliant careers on offer in the NHS – with armed force recruits able to experience different roles in real time before deciding if it is a career they would like to pursue.

“Growing the number of allied health professionals in the NHS is a key part of the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan – and our ambition is to increase the number of these professionals by around 70,000.

“To succeed in this goal and build a workforce which is fit for the future, we need to recruit staff from a wide range of backgrounds and former armed service personnel offer a fantastic depth of skills that are suited to these professions.”

Sandra Noonan, Chief Allied Health Professional, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Allied Health Professionals are an essential part of our health service – helping to treat, rehabilitate and improve the lives of our patients. By taking part in this new initiative, we hope to support members of the Armed Forces community to consider an exciting and valuable career as an AHP, where they can make a difference to the lives of many people.”

Dr Andrew Murrison, Minister for Defence People and Families said:“The UK’s Armed Forces have some of very best people in the workforce. I want our people to stay in Defence but their personal qualities, skills and experience make them highly attractive to any organisation. NHS England’s campaign offers new and rewarding opportunities to service leavers looking for a career within our health service.”

Paul Chapman, Allied Health Profession Programme Manager at NHS England, said: “Former members of the Armed Forces looking to join the NHS are a huge asset to the health service.

“We recognise the skills they bring and the value they provide, and we want to make it as easy as possible for them to find new roles and make the transition.

“We are confident we can provide them with the support they need to build fulfilling new careers where they can make a real difference to people’s lives.”

Health Minister Andrew Stephenson said: “We want the UK to be the best place in the world for veterans, who have done so much to keep our country and people safe.

“The NHS stands to benefit immeasurably from their training, qualifications and experience, and this campaign demonstrates our commitment to support veterans to pursue rewarding careers after service.

“The first ever NHS Long Term Workforce Plan – backed by £2.4 billion – sets out how we’ll address existing vacancies by recruiting and retaining hundreds of thousands more staff to put the NHS on a sustainable footing.”

To register interest in attending the sessions, people are asked to email:

Universities taking part in the first event are:

  • The University of Sunderland
  • University of Plymouth
  • Bournemouth University
  • Coventry University
  • University of Lincoln