NHS Cadets youth volunteering programme

I want a career which helps people in my community, and I’ve learned so much in the Cadets. I’ve made new friends and found out about opportunities for working in the NHS. NHS Cadet

NHS Cadets is a youth volunteering programme established by NHS England. It is delivered by St John Ambulance, working in partnership with local NHS trusts and healthcare providers across the country.

As an NHS Cadet, young people learn about life in healthcare from inspiring professional speakers. They develop key skills, boost their self-confidence, and get to explore careers in the healthcare sector through volunteering experiences.

The NHS Cadets programme provides two options for young people aged 14 to 18; a foundation pathway for young people aged 14 to 16 and an advanced pathway for those aged 16 to 18.

In 2021, an evaluation of the programme by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations found that 94% of foundation pathway NHS Cadets were satisfied with the programme. Their reasons included:

  • finding sessions fun or exciting
  • learning new skills
  • enjoying getting to know other NHS Cadets.

Through the NHS Cadets programme NHS England is committed to reaching a diverse range of young people. This includes engaging with those who may encounter barriers to accessing volunteering opportunities in health due to their personal and family circumstances, or those from communities who may not naturally consider a future career in our sector.

This is being achieved through a focus on recruiting young people from underrepresented groups. These groups include young people who are not in education, employment or training, who have a learning disability, come from low-income families, are young carers, have mental health conditions or are from ethnic minority backgrounds.

If you are a parent or carer, or a young person interested in the NHS Cadets programme, you can find more information on the St John Ambulance NHS Cadets website.

The benefits of the NHS Cadets programme

Volunteering has a double benefit – it makes a difference to the volunteer and to the people and communities they help.

The NHS Long Term Plan recognises the contribution volunteers of all ages make to high-quality patient care, how they support staff wellbeing and improve patient experience in a way that often goes above and beyond core services.

The NHS People Plan commits the organisation to increasing longer-term volunteer opportunities and contributing to the diversification of the NHS workforce.

The NHS is successfully engaging with a diverse range of young people through the NHS Cadets programme. Trusts who run NHS Cadets programmes are providing opportunities for young volunteers and delivering positive outcomes for local young people from communities and groups who are often underrepresented in the NHS workforce.

The NHS Cadets programme can be aligned with other initiatives, for example the Prince’s Trust ‘Get into’ health and social care courses. It can also contribute to workforce development strategies, for example ‘volunteer to career’ pathways or health care support worker recruitment. All of which support future workforce planning.

NHS Cadets – a young person’s perspective

The NHS Cadets programme has been great; we have learned a lot of transferable skills and experience which has all been especially useful to me. We are also learning valuable first aid skills and all about different illnesses.

Some of the transferable skills that we’ve learned include leadership, empathy and communication and we’ve been developing them all throughout the programme.

We were told through the programme that we would be able to volunteer to help with the vaccination programme which is exciting as it means we get to make a real difference, I am volunteering as a vaccination care volunteer with St John Ambulance.

There’s a lot to learn from NHS Cadets, even if you don’t want a career in healthcare, I personally do want to follow that path, but the skills are universal. Faleeha, Advanced Pathway NHS Cadet from Bradford

Views about the NHS Cadets programme – trusts and providers

We are very much looking forward to welcoming them [NHS Cadets] into the trust to join our ever-growing youth volunteering programme. All of the staff at Hull University Teaching Hospitals love the young volunteers as they bring some really nice qualities with them. Happy, smiley, friendly and keen to help. Rachael Hardcastle-Pearce, Senior Patient Experience and Engagement Lead, Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

We’re delighted at Barts Health to work in partnership with St John Ambulance to grow and support NHS Cadets, who are valued members of our local communities, key influencers as well as potential future members of the NHS workforce. Kath Evans, Director of Children’s Nursing, Barts Health NHS Trust

Contact details

If you are an NHS providers interested in exploring how the NHS Cadets programme can help you to engage with diverse young people, and provide the encouragement, experience and skills development for their future career in healthcare, please contact nhscadets@sja.org.uk