Maximising the effectiveness of recruiting new people to the NHS

Due to the economic impact of COVID-19, growing numbers of people from different sectors are looking for a career change; many could be perfect for healthcare support worker (HCSW) roles, but are unaware of them. This section provides examples of how organisations have maximised this national opportunity to recruit high-quality HCSWs locally and at scale. It looks at:

Values based HCSW recruitment

People often feel a lack of qualifications to be a doctor or nurse bars them from working in the NHS. As such, it is vital to raise the profile and understanding of the HCSW role, the huge variety of work it covers, and the skills the role requires. When hiring, it’s important to look beyond a person’s qualifications, formal experience and knowledge. Many people have lived experience of providing care, or possess the right transferrable skills from another sector, such as being calm under pressure, that would make them ideal HCSWs. Hiring people who demonstrate the right caring and compassionate values that HCSWs need to provide high-quality care to patients is critical. That is why we recommend providers use values based recruitment approaches to recruit their HCSWs and then design onboarding and educational processes to equip them with the necessary clinical skills thereafter.

Values based recruitment

The HEE values-based recruitment framework encourages NHS employers to recruit in line with the values of the NHS Constitution. A suite of resources and advice on how to conduct values based interviews and assessment centres are available from HEE.

Case study: The Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust. The Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust recruits apprentice clinical support workers (ACSWs) based on their values. As part of the recruitment and selection process, applicants discuss the role of the ACSW in detail with the apprenticeships team to understand the responsibilities and expectations of the role prior to attending the assessment day.

At the assessment day, candidates participate in scenarios such as looking after a patient who is complaining of pain. The behaviours the candidate demonstrates at assessment enable the trust to assess if they are in line with the ‘Leeds Way Values’ – patient-centred,
accountable, collaborative, empowered and fair – and so can be successful in the role.

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See more examples of best practice on the FutureNHS platform.

Addressing local recruitment challenges

It is important to understand the skills and experience of job seekers in your area, including the barriers that they might face in becoming HCSWs and to have a plan in place to address these issues as part of your recruitment strategy.

A good understanding of the local community, allied with the right promotion of the HCSW role and its career opportunities, can help you develop a sustainable, continuous increase in the number of new HCSWs. This can also support those who want to move into nursing through well-developed career pathways.

Case study: Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. To address increased HCSW vacancies at their trust, Aintree University Hospital NHS FT developed apprenticeship open days to raise awareness of employment opportunities in the area. They also promoted nursing as a career with local schools and colleges and developed an improved career pathway for existing HCSWs to become trainee nursing associates or registered nursing students.Find out more about this work on the FutureNHS platform.

Case study: North Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust. The trust faced challenges in recruiting HCSWs, including deprivation and mixed educational attainment levels in the area. They addressed this by widening participation and routes to entry through developing a ‘Career Confidence’ programme. The programme encouraged people to explore the possibility of HCSW roles through a redesigned apprenticeship route, combined with clear career pathways. This included use of the Care Certificate and science qualifications for staff to transition into Band 5 trainee nursing associate and assistant practitioner roles over 18 months to two years. Find out more about this work on the FutureNHS platform.

Large-scale and centralised HCSW recruitment

If your organisation advertises multiple HCSW vacancies separately, candidates may be confused as to which roles they are most suitable for (or which are most suitable for them). This often sees candidates making several applications to several posts, which can impact on the quality of each application, and a single suitable candidate may be interviewed on several separate occasions. To maximise staff time, reduce costs, improve candidate experience and benefit from economies of scale, organisations can streamline their HCSW recruitment processes by centralising recruitment and/or using assessment centres.

Not only do streamlined processes improve time to hire, vacancy rates and candidate/staff experience, there are also benefits to collaborating with other organisations to recruit HCSWs across a larger footprint; for example, integrated care system (ICS) level. Co-ordinating recruitment across an organisation or wider footprint offers scope to maximise the variety of the HCSW role, by offering a rotating placement in a range of care settings. This could include an acute setting, mental health, learning disability services and more. Such approaches can give newcomers a breadth of skills and experience and could encourage them to make a career in the NHS.

Case study: University Hospitals Southampton NHS Foundation Trust. The trust developed a recruitment strategy which centralised recruitment across the trust. This included allowing for multiple HCSW vacancies to be recruited via a single advert and giving the recruitment team, rather than clinical hiring managers, responsibility for shortlisting candidates. The team used a three-step assessment process, that included an online application, a telephone interview and an assessment centre (conducted by clinical staff) to reduce clinical time needed to recruit HCSWs and ensure good fit for the role.

Find out more about this work on the FutureNHS platform.

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.