Healthcare Support Worker Programme (HCSW)
- The HCSW programme was launched in September 2020 to support NHS trusts to increase their HCSW recruitment, minimise vacancies, avoid reliance on temporary staff and so provide greater continuity of care for patients, and to support more people to progress into nursing and midwifery roles in the future.
- Reducing and maintaining minimal HCSW vacancy rates is essential to supporting the NHS’ recovery from COVID-19 and the delivery of the NHS Long Term Plan.
- To ensure that the NHS can grow for the future, health systems are asked to increase their recruitment of HCSWs as part of their plans.
- One of the programme’s ambitions is to recruit people wishing to start a career in the NHS from outside health and care sectors (referred to as “new to care”). It has focussed on encouraging people, at all stages of their working lives, who have transferable skills and experiences to apply for HCSW roles.
- In early 2022, steps were taken to increase recruitment activity nationally whilst removing entry barriers to the HCSW role by running a series of in-person recruitment events across England.
The national events generated nearly 4,000 conditional offers, with an 82% interview-to-offer conversion rate. Of these offers, 38% were made to candidates who were new to care, and trusts noted a greater diversity of candidate.
Unlike a rolling advert, the model used for the series of in-person events provided a unique opportunity to educate and inform candidates about the role, interview and provide a provisional offer on the same day. This approach was designed with a view to improve candidate experience, utilise recruitment and clinical capacity more effectively, and reduce post-offer attrition.
Working collaboratively with other system partners, unsuccessful candidates can also be signposted to functional skill training, volunteering opportunities or additional support, ensuring a good candidate journey.
The education component of the event is critical to improve retention by explaining the role, responsibilities and opportunities available once in post.
An in-person recruitment event removes entry barriers created by application forms and encourages a wider diversity of applicant to apply for one of our roles through targeted advertising and engagement with local Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) organisations.
This model of an in-person recruitment event encourages standardisation and collaboration across an Integrated Care Board (ICB) and Local Maternity and Neonatal System (LMNS) footprint whilst reducing competition in the local area.
For the national events, NHS England partnered with Indeed to support with attraction (driving relevant candidates to these events) and to provide coordination support.
Indeed used the below description to explain the event to candidates:
“Think of it like a job fair, but for one company and more personal. Hiring events are a great way for employers to fill multiple roles quickly. Hiring is a human process, and they would like to meet you to see if you’re a fit!”
The benefits of running an in-person recruitment event
- Maximise the potential for recruiting to important entry level NHS roles.
- Educate individuals that may be considering a career in health about the role, the trust(s) involved in the event, training and career development opportunities – this is paramount to entice new to care candidates.
- A candidate is given the opportunity to have all of their questions and queries answered prior to interview.
- Individuals are given the opportunity to interview on the day of the event thus reducing time pressures associated with a job search, and in some instances time costs (e.g. child care).
- Onboarding processes can begin on the day which can help to expedite the induction process.
- An in-person recruitment event removes entry barriers for candidates that are created through traditional methods of recruitment e.g., effectively showcasing skills and values in an application form, IT literacy or knowing where to find job listings (and how they are advertised).
About this guide
This guide pulls together the learning from these events, as well as examples of good practice from trusts who have run their own in-person events, with the aim of supporting NHS organisations to successfully implement their own similar initiatives.
The NHS England in-person recruitment events will henceforth be referred to as the “national events”.
This guide has been split into three sections:
- Prior to the in-person recruitment event
- On the day of the in-person recruitment event
- Additional resources
This guide will provide insight into what worked and some of the lessons learnt from the national events. We arranged the events on the day into different zones, each covering a key aspect of the recruitment process and candidate experience, such as learning, interviews, allocation, and comms. You can find out more about these zones within the three sections listed above.
Please note: this pack is not exhaustive and therefore the guidance in this pack will need to be amended to fit your local audience, the staff group you are hoping to recruit and the size of the event you are intending to hold. We will also provide an overview of the resources we have developed which can be adapted to support your event.
It is also important to note that an in-person recruitment event may not be the most appropriate recruitment method for the group you are recruiting – for example, if you have a small number of vacancies.
Prior to the in-person recruitment event
Vacancies and trust requirements
Once you have established which role(s) you will be recruiting to, it is important to:
- Finalise the number of vacancies you are looking to fill, ensuring this number is “locked in”
- Consider whether you have scope to over-recruit and if so, how many additional people or whole time equivalents (WTE)?
- What criteria needs to be considered? Are you accepting part-time applicants, do you accept individuals on a student visa? This needs to be considered from the very beginning and made clear to candidates and staff.
- Will you require candidates to complete a functional skills assessment? Can this be built into the pre-screening or be done once a conditional offer has been made? If not, specify the length of time each candidate will be on site for so they can plan accordingly.
- Create a roles and responsibilities document so all staff members (or organisations) involved know what is expected of them. If you are running a collaborative event, this document could outline the number of people each organisation has agreed to recruit to avoid any issues during the allocation process.
When running an in-person event, be aware that there will always be a degree of candidate drop-off post offer. As such, consider whether you want to over-recruit to account for this drop off. The drop-off rate increases when trusts require candidates to undergo additional tests, interviews or assessments before moving from conditional offer to an “offer”. At one of the national events for example, the recruiting trusts managed the event on the basis of an average drop-off rate of 40%.
If you do not want to over-recruit substantially, it may be worth exploring recruiting to the bank, or the creation of a talent pool to ensure great candidates are not turned away.
Things to consider:
- Is there a space available on-site? If not, is there a venue nearby that may be able to meet the requirements of your planned event?
- Consider accessibility and inclusion – does the venue have suitable disabled access?
- Is the venue easily accessible to your target audience
(cycle route, bus routes, parking available?)
- Is the venue large enough to create a clear candidate flow?
- Does the venue have space where you could hold a staff briefing?
- Does the venue have somewhere that staff who are helping on the day can take a break?
If you are taking a collaborative approach, you will also need to consider whether the venue is accessible for all the organisations involved.
- Can candidates who come to this event get to the sites you are currently advertising vacancies for?
- Is the venue large enough to accommodate the level of staff you will have helping at the collaborative event and the additional prospective candidates?
Finding an accessible venue is critical to the success of the event. Consider disability and inclusion – does the venue have appropriate disabled access. Have you left enough space for a wheelchair user to get around? Do you require a quiet space for candidates or a prayer room?
- Attraction should lead jobseekers to a single dedicated registration page, regardless of how many NHS providers will be recruiting at the event.
- If you are recruiting to multiple roles, create one landing page per role so you can control the level of sign-ups based on vacancy position, staff capacity and venue capacity.
- Ensure you provide information on the registration page about the role (duties, pay, the sites you are recruiting too, clinical settings), the purpose of the event and the trusts involved.
- It is critical to include a section about the day, what candidates can expect, the information/documentation that candidates are required to bring with them, what they should wear, etc.,
- You can find other examples of registration pages on Indeed’s webpage, for example: One Gloucestershire Health and Social Care Hiring Event (indeed.com)
Once the landing page has been created, promotion of the event can signpost prospective candidates to the registration page. See the ‘advertising the event‘ section for more information on communications and promotion.
Learning from the national events, and subsequent trust in-person events, has shown that when multiple trusts are involved in the event, having one registration page and a single set of pre-screening questions is effective for the following reasons:
- Prevent confusion
- Prevent duplicate registrations
- Monitor interview slots and sign-ups
- Encourage collaboration
To reduce the amount of follow-up work, and reduce the time involved in the allocation zone (where candidates are directed after they have been successful at interview. In this zone candidates discuss where they want to work, ID checks etc.,), it is worth considering:
- Inclusion of basic sign-up information like name, address, telephone – these details can be useful for the bulk upload to TRAC at the end of the event process for successful candidates.
- In addition to capturing basic details, asking key pre-screening questions at registration will improve the suitability of candidates for the role and the conversion rate from interview to offer. This could include a few questions on functional skills if the role you are advertising requires.
- The automated process set up by Indeed used to pre-screen individuals registering for the national events included questions around their right to work in the UK, their preparedness to work shifts or to commute, and their interest in a long-term career in the NHS. We also asked about their current role to ascertain the percentage of new-to-care candidates. This information was useful for trust and role allocation as well as data collection.
- Jobseekers were required to pass these screening questions to book their place at the event via the registration page, with those whose answers were not compatible with the eligibility or practical requirements of the role were removed from the process.
- Whilst pre-event screening will help to increase the number of candidates attending the event who meet the role requirements, this process does not guarantee all candidates will.
Advertising the event
Alongside advertising the event on NHS Jobs, the trust website and social media – trusts have explored additional methods of advertising the event to reach the biggest number of candidates
- Interactive screens, screensavers and adding to the intranet
- Billboard advertising
- Bus advertising
- Linking with voluntary and community sector enterprises (VCSE) and organisations local organisations like the council, Job Centre, Citizens Advice or the Princes Trust
- Local news outlets and local events pages
- Connect with local schools and universities
- Social media campaign
- Information stand in an area of high footfall e.g., shopping centre
- Posters and flyers.
Advertising the event: widening access and supporting diversity
When looking to promote your event and widen access or reach underserved communities in your area such as minority and disadvantaged groups it critical to work with internal colleagues and external partners. You could consider the following:
- Your equality diversity and inclusion (EDI) team will have links with staff networks whose members may be happy to share your promotional materials to their personal networks.
- The EDI lead will also have links with external groups supporting an identity or experience such as LGBT or mental health and can get promotion materials disseminated through those connections.
- Your trust public engagement team or local Healthwatch will have links with local underserved or health inclusion groups and may be able to share your event details in any regular communication or event they are holding.
- You could also link up with your education, work experience, placement team(s) as sometimes they have projects targeted at young people from areas of deprivation. Your Volunteering or Charity lead will also have links with people who may be interested in your roles or can disseminate your promotion materials amongst their networks.
- Linking up with the local authority for example specifically with the ward officer team could mean ward officers hand out promotion materials during their walks and in group activities in a local area.
- You could target a postcode area in partnership if you know from your data that there is less take up of roles from there.
- The local VCSE can also help to promote your event. There may be partner or commissioned organisations, for example, a community organisation focused on heart health who could highlight your event directly to their services users. You could visit local VCSE groups or send a call-to-action video to be shared by WhatsApp with a link so people can register straightaway. VCSE partners could also take part in your event as some offer English language support and pre-employment support to your community.
Other things to consider
- Circulate a briefing document for staff prior to the event which includes venue information, location and transport information, timings, information about what to wear etc. You can find an example from the London MSW and HCSW hiring event and an example from the Bristol HCSW event.
- When recruiting staff to support the day, consider the five key zones: welcome and registration, learning zone (where candidates find out about the role), interviewing (where candidates undergo a values-based interview), allocation (where candidates state their preference for location, shift pattern etc.,) and pre-employment checks (where candidates undergo document checks and anything else the trust needs to ensure the candidate can start as quickly as possible). Each zone should have enough staff members allocated to cover breaks to ensure candidates are having the best experience no matter what time of the day they arrive.
- If you have spare interview slots or additional capacity on the day, it is worth considering whether your event will accept walk-in candidates. If you are considering this, set up a walk-in screening zone as candidates will need to undergo the same pre-screening process as candidates that have pre-registered, but also to ensure that you have all the details required for allocation and uploads to TRAC.
- Is it possible to digitalize as much as possible e.g., interview sheets, to reduce paperwork on the day?
- Are functional skills assessments necessary for the role you are advertising? Can the assessments be done at another time to reduce the time the candidate is on site for? If they need to be done on the day, review the questions in line with the staff group you are trying to attract e.g., if you are recruiting new to care candidates, do not include questions that would require a prior knowledge of the health and care sector.
- If someone is successful at interview but unsuccessful with their functional skills test, is there a plan to support these candidates? Are you linked in with local colleges or employability groups?
On the day of the in-person recruitment event
It is critical to consider the candidate journey when mapping the flow of the day.
Key learnings from the national events:
- Set up the night before the event as you may find that some candidates arrive very early for their interview slot.
- Provide a quiet zone for unsuccessful candidates to allow a private space to provide feedback and signposting to other opportunities e.g., training, interview skills, functional skills or volunteering opportunities.
- Where possible ensure the entrance and exit are not in the same place (e.g., a front and side door), so that unsuccessful candidates do not come back through for a second interview.
- If your communications team are going to be present on the day, it was most effective for them to be close to the venue exit to allow for conversations with candidates, to capture positive stories, quotes and photos.
- Avoid splitting the event over multiple floors where possible.
Share a map of the candidate journey (example below) with the staff coming to the event within the briefing document. This means staff know where they need to be on the day and can familiarise themselves with the candidate experience.
On the day briefing for staff
The national events that were most successful included two briefings; a general briefing to inform staff about the purpose of the day, set the tone, explain the candidate journey, health and safety requirements (e.g., fire exits, first aid points) and a more bespoke briefing depending on the zone the member of staff will be working on; learning zone, interview, pre-employment checks.
Individual zone briefings could include:
- If you are recruiting to multiple roles or bands, it is important to re-iterate how you can tell these candidates apart. Trusts have previously used coloured stickers or symbols
- How the zone is going to run and key points of contacts
- Useful terminology e.g., “conditional offer”
- If you have digitalised the process, how the system works
- What is expected from the people involved e.g., key messaging, contingency plans, candidate requirements
- Common questions that staff may be asked
- Break rota
- Next steps and information about what happens post-event.
Purpose and benefits of the staff briefing:
- Share key messaging
- Clarify plans/goals for the day and ensure all staff members understand their role on the day
- Bring everyone together to set the tone for a positive candidate experience celebrate what you are about to do
- Highlight key contacts.
Registration on the day
Registration is the first point of contact for candidates on the day and so it is critical they have a warm welcome. For candidates who have pre-registered via the event registration page they will be able to sign in to the venue. During the national events Indeed provided candidates with merchandise e.g., a water bottle or a notebook.
If your event is accepting walk-in candidates they will be able to register at this point. It is critical that the same basic information is collected as online registrants as this will assist with TRAC bulk uploads, or support other methods of candidate upload.
Registration can also prevents unsuccessful candidates from interviewing multiple times. Instead it would be encouraged they engage with the post-interview feedback, engage with partner organisations at the event or explore voluntary opportunities to build knowledge.
During registration, candidates will be signed in and walked through their journey before being directed to the learning zone.
- Learning zone
- Interview waiting area
- Allocation zone
Trusts have created an excel spreadsheet or collaborative tracking document for candidates. This allows staff at every stage to see who has signed in and where they are in their journey. This has been shared with colleagues via a Microsoft Teams channel or SharePoint.
This is one of the most important elements of an in-person recruitment event, and if done well can help prevent early attrition of the candidates recruited through the event. The learning zone is critical to help calm candidates’ nerves, provide information on the trust/s, give them an insight into the role you are advertising, some of the tasks they may be responsible for, the training and support they will receive and where the role can take them.
If multiple trusts are involved, it is critical to ensure you have representation from each of the organisations. This allows candidates to make an informed choice about where they want to work.
Top tips for a successful learning zone:
1. Ensure there is information available which highlights the differences between the various roles being recruited to and the setting they may be working within (e.g., inpatient acute, inpatient mental health or community services). It is critical to make the requirements for each role clear, for example stating that for a community role you may need a driving license and access to a vehicle.
2. Inviting current members of staff from each role and setting you are recruiting to, to speak to candidates about the role and answer any questions can be beneficial.
3. Include interactive demonstrations which will help explain what the role entails. By the end of the national events, each learning zone used a training Manikin to highlight things like basic life support and personal care. Other trusts created a display of the Bristol stool chart. Other ideas include a virtual reality headset (see picture right).
4. Invite a partner organisation to have a stand in your learning zone e.g., the Princes Trust, the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) or the Shaw Trust to help candidates prior to interview, but also to support unsuccessful candidates with other opportunities and training.
If your event is focused on the recruitment of Support Workers, the Health Education England Learning and Development roadmap and the HCSW career development infographic can be printed and made available as useful resources for candidates to better understand the role and development opportunities.
There are a host of other useful resources that can be downloaded from FutureNHS.
Things to consider:
- In peak times, consider how you can split the clinical and non-clinical staff to ensure the maximum number of interview panels, e.g., interview panels consisting of one clinical and one non-clinical member of staff.
- During the national events, the morning (8.30am-11am), 3pm and end of the working day tended to be the busiest for interviews, so it was important to ensure sufficient cover throughout the day.
- How will your interviewers communicate that they are ready for a new candidate or that they have made a decision? For the national events, interviewers held up a paddle – white for a new candidate and blue when they were ready for the candidate to be escorted to the allocation zone or if unsuccessful, to additional support from colleagues.
- If you are running a collaborative event, certain trusts may require additional checks once an offer has been made, therefore it is worth considering the terminology interviewers use once a successful interview has been undertaken e.g., “congratulations on your provisional offer”.
- GDPR guidelines should be considered at all points, and only necessary candidate information gathered. Interview sheets should be kept with the candidate or with appointing staff, and destroyed securely when no longer needed.
When running a collaborative event, agreement on one set of values-based interview questions meant that staff could interview for all involved trusts and helped deal with peaks in candidate attendance. This method also reduced competition between the organisations whilst ensuring that candidates were of a consistent standard.
Allocation and pre-employment checking
To accelerate the onboarding of new starters, initial pre-employment checks can be undertaken on the day of the event for successful candidates. For each of the national events, and subsequent events, the HR team have worked out the best process for the organisation to follow.
- Once a candidate has been successful at interview, it is critical to understand the candidates work preference e.g., clinical setting, site or trust (if working in collaboration). Learning from the in-person events highlighted the criticality of understanding the candidates top three preferences to ensure they are placed at a trust of their choice. Appropriate allocation can help prevent early attrition of candidates.
- At the national events, all candidate data captured at registration and interview, including the interview outcome, trust preference, part or full-time hours etc. was inputted into a master spreadsheet by event staff on the day. The master spreadsheet was then used to undertake a bulk upload of successful candidate data to Trac to start the onboarding process quickly. Not all trusts chose to develop a spreadsheet and other methods have been used, including online job portals. Other organisations have experimented inputting this information via Microsoft Forms, as this when exported creates a master spreadsheet.
- At the national events, both successful and unsuccessful candidates were recorded – this was useful to prevent re-interviewing.
- Depending on the process used, candidates should be asked to bring all the required documents listed on the registration page to the event. Your registration page should state whether original copies of documents are essential or if digital versions will suffice.
- If working in collaboration with another trust(s), learning from the seven in person events show that pre-employment checks worked most effectively when done in collaboration e.g., each organisation performing the necessary checks for all candidates on the day, regardless of which trust they had been recruited to.
- After checks were completed at the national events, candidates walked away with a printed conditional offer letter. The offer letter outlined the next steps of the recruitment process and provided candidates with important contacts in case they had questions for the providers in the meantime.
Learning from the national events: the pre-employment checks on the day could take a long time and, in some cases, complications arose, such as questions around visa extensions sponsorship. Invite a dedicated senior HR professional who can confidently advise on these questions throughout the event is essential.
At the national events, members of the communication team attended event to:
- manage media presence and interviews, where necessary, on the day
- capture pictures, case studies and quotes:
- to be used on social media to mark the event and, if necessary, further promote the event on the day to encourage walk-in candidates
- to be used on social media to raise awareness of and promote the roles available and signpost to vacancies, encouraging others who did not attend to apply or find more information
- support post event communications
- be used as part of the promotion of future events.
Ensure you have consent forms printed or available for candidates to sign. This means you can utilise the quotes, pictures and case studies for the above purpose.
Other useful tips:
- Engage with your local voluntary and community organisations to provide support for candidates in terms of interview preparation and additional guidance, and sign-post unsuccessful candidates to additional support. You may wish to invite colleagues from your volunteering teams to share information with unsuccessful candidates on volunteering opportunities.
- Staff working at the event could be wearing their clinical uniforms or smart-casual outfits. NHS lanyards with people’s names on can help candidates recognise staff members and address them by their names.
- Ensure good internet connection at the venue and that Wi-Fi details are shareable with candidates and staff who are helping the learning zone.
- The national events saw a high diversity of candidates. Developing an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) monitoring form can be a useful monitoring tool. These forms can also be useful when looking to build a business case for your next event, showcasing how to break down barriers with the application process etc.,
- Careful consideration should be made to GDPR guidelines especially when collecting personal information.
Indeed’s top tips for a successful recruitment event
- Put the candidate first – it is essential to have the candidate experience in mind at every stage of the event. Are you making the event accessible? Are your roles easy to apply for? Have you got water available for candidates on the day? etc.
- Have an accessible venue with plenty of signage and plenty of space.
- Ensure you are offering part-time and flexible working.
- An ‘Education/Learning’ Zone is a brilliant opportunity to educate candidates, meet potential hires and allow candidates to learn more about the role and organisation. Consider how you can make this zone engaging.
- We have found that candidates prefer interviews that are no more than 30 minutes long. It is worth considering this when you plan the candidate flow for the day. How long do you expect someone to be on site for? What does the candidate journey look like?
- Try and conduct as much of the onboarding process as possible on the day of the event – DBS checks, references, ID checks etc., What cannot be done on the day, ensure there is a clear process and next-steps for.
Trusts who contact successful candidates within 2 days of the event have seen a smaller candidate drop off rate. You could reach out to:
- Re-confirm timelines
- Key contacts
- Next steps
Organisations who have run their own event have explored different approaches in the post-event comms, however positive feedback has been garnered where conditional offer letters are either given on the day or sent within 48 hours. You could consider a post-event webinar for candidates or virtual drop-in sessions to go through next steps and common questions.
Consider post-event communication for unsuccessful candidates which could signpost to volunteering opportunities, resources including functional skills options and organisations to reach out to for further support. This could help to create a talent pool of potential future candidates.
Having a named HR colleague responsible for a candidate’s pre-employment and onboarding has also proved successful. This contact is responsible for answering questions and acting as a point of contact within the organisation.
To speed up the process and ensure candidates have a positive journey, some trusts have also offered uniform on the day, and have taken ID photographs as part of the pre-employment zone.
As part of the wider HCSW Programme, good practice case studies have been developed with organisations who have reviewed their time to hire. These may give you some ideas in terms of developing HR processes to quickly onboard candidates:
- University Hospitals of Derby and Burton NHS Foundation Trust – New approach to the recruitment and induction processes of HCSWs – Healthcare Support Worker Programme – FutureNHS Collaboration Platform
- Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust Reducing Time to Hire – Healthcare Support Worker Programme – FutureNHS Collaboration Platform
- Yeovil District Hospital NHS Foundation Trust Reducing Time to Hire – Healthcare Support Worker Programme – FutureNHS Collaboration Platform
- North Tees and Hartlepool – Postcard Initiative Case Study – Healthcare Support Worker Programme – FutureNHS Collaboration Platform
- York and Scarborough NHS Foundation Trust – Open Recruitment Event – Case study – Healthcare Support Worker Programme – FutureNHS Collaboration Platform
- King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust – In-person Recruitment Event – Case Study – Healthcare Support Worker Programme – FutureNHS Collaboration Platform
- Royal Cornwall Hospital NHS Trust – HCSW In-Person Recruitment Case Study – Healthcare Support Worker Programme – FutureNHS Collaboration Platform
Good practice resources, including candidate feedback form template, example offer letter and pre-employment check guidance:
- Good Practice Resources – Healthcare Support Worker Programme – FutureNHS Collaboration Platform
- Candidate resource pack (sent before the event) – Health and care candidate resource pack – NHS Suffolk and North East Essex ICB)
- UHBW HCSW Mass Recruitment Event Brief – Healthcare Support Worker Programme – FutureNHS Collaboration Platform
Process and the learning zone:
- Processes – Healthcare Support Worker Programme – FutureNHS Collaboration Platform
- Make your job application the best it can be – Overview (lthtr.nhs.uk)
- Learning Zone Information Pack – Healthcare Support Worker Programme – FutureNHS Collaboration Platform
- Interview panel briefing – Healthcare Support Worker Programme – FutureNHS Collaboration Platform
Publication reference number: B1978