Attracting healthcare support workers from outside the NHS and social care

The importance of healthcare support workers

Healthcare support workers (HCSWs) are in high demand across the health and social care system. It is important to consider the impact of only hiring staff who already work in the NHS or social care on existing services, and to consider widening your recruitment pool. The qualities and skills required to be an excellent HCSW do not necessarily come from experience of working within the health and care sector. Many individuals possess transferrable skills and core values from other industries and have lived experience that make them a fantastic fit for HCSW roles.

Case study: Mark, trainee nursing associate. Mark became a healthcare assistant after retiring from the Army in his early forties. He brought transferable skills and experience including medic courses, managing teams, being an instructor and working in an operational base. Mark says witnessing injuries during his service and his passion to care made him want to work in healthcare.
Case study: Becky, healthcare assistant. Becky worked in admin from leaving school at 16, including in regional TV, the aerospace industry and for a local authority. Twelve years ago, aged 38, she decided to change career and be a healthcare support worker. She also now helps with the HCSW recruitment and provides pastoral support to new HCSWs at her trust.
Case study: Hampshire and Isle of Wight ICS cabin crew career framework. Hampshire and Isle of Wight ICS has developed a specific career framework for ex-cabin crew from the airline industry who wish to make the most of their customer service and first aid experience by joining the NHS. Following initial mandatory training – either face-to-face or using the eLearning for Health (eLfH) Cabin crew supporting the delivery of patient care module – staff can be deployed as HCSWs. Following completion of the Care Certificate they can progress to nurse associates and onward to registered nurses (or equivalent) with further training.
Case study: Jess and The Prince’s Trust ‘Get into Hospital Services’ Programme. The Prince’s Trust supports young people into entry level roles in the NHS such as HCSW positions. Their ‘Get into’ and ‘Get started’ programmes offer work experience and skills development support, alongside healthcare specific introductions and skills training. Jess, aged 21, always wanted to work in the NHS. But after health issues saw her leave college with half a degree, Jess didn’t feel optimistic about her chances. After seeing a poster promoting The Prince’s Trust ‘Get into Hospital Services’ programme, she decided to apply. Once on the programme, Jess excelled and has been working at Birmingham Children’s Hospital as a clinical support worker in intensive care for two years now. She says: “My dream of a career in nursing is being realised. With help and support from The Prince’s Trust and colleagues at work, I’m now feeling happier. In the past I’ve had times when I thought my disability was a barrier to employment, however I now believe my attitude to work and helping others is valued and appreciated. I’ve gone from feeling like a failure to seeing a future full of possibility.”


NHS Employers’ ‘Inspire, attract and recruit’: Inspire, attract and recruit is an interactive toolkit that aims to improve providers’ understanding of their workforce supply and talent pool. It also provides support around simplifying and improving recruitment processes to create a positive candidate experience.

Next sections in this guidance

Download this guidance as a PDF: Attracting people into healthcare support worker roles – A practical guide to developing your healthcare support worker workforce.