Supporting people in early and late career

The National Retention Programme works closely with systems to help improve staff experience, retain our NHS people and support organisations to undertake a range of actions to help staff feel valued, through the themes in our People Promise.

As around 30 per cent of our NHS workforce are aged 50 and over, and a significant number of people choose to leave in their first two years of employment. This page looks at ways to best support people to enable them to choose to stay in the NHS. It includes information, tools and resources tailored to our NHS people in their late and early career stages. Some of these resources are applicable to all NHS staff, at all stages of their career, and may find the offers set out here useful.

Improving staff retention: a guide for line managers and employers has been jointly updated by NHS England and NHS Improvement and NHS Employers. It contains further information on early and late career support for line managers and employers and others supporting our NHS people in their late and early career.

Support is also available via local regional colleagues and our regional retention managers.

Late career support

Approximately a third of the NHS workforce are in the later stage of their career and play a vital role in leading and supporting colleagues, passing on knowledge and inspiring new staff.

What people want from their career often changes over time and it is important that those in the later stages of their career can continue to work and contribute in a way that supports these changes.

Where possible, our NHS people should have access to development opportunities which meet their career aspirations and be supported to think about how they can use their skills, experience and knowledge in different and flexible ways.

Case study

Nottingham University Hospitals launched a ‘Late Career Hub’ hosted by the innovative Care4Notts platform to support staff across the ICS. The platform provides resources for late career healthcare professionals, their managers and mentors.


Three out of four people going through the menopause will experience symptoms, and for one in four, these will be severe and impact on their day-today life (Menopause and the workplace – NHS Employers).

The menopause usually occurs between 45 and 55 years of age and in the UK the average age for a woman to reach the menopause is 51. Around 1 in 100 women experience the menopause before 40 years of age (Menopause – NHS.UK).

There are number of resources available to help raise awareness, improve workplace environments and support line managers to help our NHS people experiencing the menopause to look after themselves. Some of these resources may also be helpful for people who might need similar support.

These resources include:

Case study

Senior nurses at Sherwood Forest Hospital Foundation Trust recognised that staff sickness absences were sometimes related to menopause symptoms. Over 12 months, the organisation carried out a research intervention study which included expertise from menopause clinical colleagues to develop action plans to educate line managers. 

Pensions and flexible retirement

Providing information on NHS pensions can help those in later career to make informed decisions about continuing to work or planning their retirement. It can also help your organisation retain the valuable skills, knowledge and experience staff have developed over their careers.

Information about out how the NHS Pension scheme works and how it can support flexible retirement is available on our We are Recognised and Rewarded webpages . These pages include different flexible working options available to allow people to use their skills and experience in a way that best suits them.

More information on NHS Pensions can also be found on NHS Employers website and NHS Business Services Authority website.

NHS Employer’s ageing workforce checklist can help to assess how age aware your organisation currently is and help you develop an action plan for the future.

Early career support

Those joining the NHS for the first time, or in the early stages of their career, play a vital role in shaping the future of the NHS workforce.

It is important that people feel supported to develop their career pathways in a way that suits them and encourages them to continue working for the NHS.


A robust induction provides colleagues with practical information needed to work effectively and helps them to feel part of the team and understand where they can go to for support.

There are a range of  approaches to inductions which helps to promote a culture where people feel valued and supported in their new roles, for example regular catch ups or one-to-one meetings will help assess progress and offer help, as well as offering new employees additional support through a buddy, or a network with other new starters. This helps to promote a culture where people feel valued and supported in their new roles.

NHS Employer’s guide on inductions offers support for internationally recruited staff.

Also see the ‘Supporting new starters and those moving roles’ chapter in the Improving staff retention guide.


Preceptorship helps newly qualified practitioners to translate their knowledge into everyday practice, grow in confidence and have the best possible start.

Having a robust and consistently applied preceptorship framework can help support our NHS people to feel valued and that their development is considered important. It supports socialisation into the organisation and a sense of belonging. Most importantly it can improve clinical skills, improve clinical outcomes and therefore the quality of patient care.

Preceptorship schemes are offered to newly qualified nurses, nursing associates, midwives and allied health professionals and Capital Nurse developed a preceptorship framework for London with a kitemark standard.

For further information on preceptorship can be found on the below links:

Case study

Oxford University Hospital Trust introduced a three-tier foundation preceptorship programme where preceptors helped to inform organisational changes through the identification of common themes. New nurses indicated the preceptorship programme had positive value and improved the experience of newly qualified nurses during their first year of clinical practice

Support in early and late career

Mentoring and coaching

Mentoring and coaching can help maintain engagement among new starters beyond the induction phase and also help those in later stages of their career feel valued.

Colleagues in later career may also want to share their experiences with newly qualified healthcare professionals through mentoring, and some organisations have made this into an attractive alternative career for experienced NHS staff.

For more information see NHS Employers webpages on education and training and NHS Leadership Academy’s Talent Management toolkit , designed to support organisations to develop and embed inclusive, sustainable approaches to talent management for staff at all levels.

HEE’s quick guide encourages AHPs in late career to consider supporting students with their practice-based learning.  This concept can be expanded to include other newly qualified practitioners and those moving into new roles or roles in new settings.

Case study

Barking, Havering and Redbridge NHS trust have implemented legacy nurse mentoring, where experienced staff provide mentoring and pastoral support to new employees. They have reported a reduction in both their turnover and vacancy rates and the scheme has now expanded to provide mentoring and pastoral support to midwives, allied health professionals and healthcare assistants due to its success.

Flexible working

Flexible working supports our NHS people to have greater choice in where, when and how they work, and allows for a work-life balance which takes into account changes in circumstances, commitments and interests outside of work.

It may not always be easy to accommodate individual work preferences, but being a more flexible, modern employer, supports us to retain our existing people and attract new talent. Flexible working can positively impact on staff attendance, morale and job satisfaction leading to engaged staff delivering the best patient care.

Flexible retirement can allow people to continue working in a different way and for organisations can retain valuable skills and knowledge. Being informed about retirement options and having open discussions about retirement plans, may help those considering retirement to approach it in the best way for them.

More information and resources are available on the We work flexibly webpage.

Further information on flexible working is also available in our retention guide, including suggested actions for leaders and managers, case studies, tools and further reading.

Health and wellbeing

Enhancing the experience of our NHS people, and helping them to stay well, means that our highly valued workforce are likely to stay longer. There is a comprehensive package of health and wellbeing support in place for our NHS people which includes access to a 24 hour text service, free self-help apps, as well as training, coaching and guidance for teams and leaders and 40 staff mental health and wellbeing hubs.

Further information on how line managers and employers can support health and wellbeing can be found in the retention guide.