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The health sector is an important sector of ‘mass’ employment throughout the UK offering employment opportunities to people in a wide range of roles. One of its most notable characteristics is its large number of occupations which require relatively high skills and qualifications levels.

The majority of the workforce can be found in associate professional and technical, professional, and personal services occupations.

    The sector is dominated in terms of numbers by clinical staff. There are, however, a wide range of roles across the sector with over 300 different careers within the sector including gardeners, window cleaners, and plumbers as well as doctors, nurses and ambulance staff.

    Source: Skills for Health AACS LMI report 2010 and Sector Skills Assessment 2010

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    Vacancies, skills shortages and gaps

    • 20% of employers in the sector report vacancies, compared to 12% in all sectors in England.
    • 7% report hard-to-fill vacancies, compared to 3% in all sectors.
    • 4% report skill shortage vacancies, compared to 3% in all sectors.

    Around 22% of establishments reported skills gaps in England, 17% in Scotland and 14% in Northern Ireland. Within Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales the percentage of establishments reporting skills gaps was, however, higher than the average for the whole economy.

    The two main skills gaps areas across the health sector are: written communication; and technical and practical skills. Other areas where the skills gaps across the health sector were higher than the average for all employers across England included: oral communication; team working; written communication; general IT user skills; literacy; office administration skills; and numeracy.

    In England, the largest number of skills gaps were reported in technical, practical or job-specific areas, at 55%. In Scotland, 47% of employers who report skills gaps indicated they were in problem solving skills, oral communication and customer handling. In England, the proportion of employers citing these were, 36%, 35% and 38% respectively. Team work also featured highly as 40% of Scottish employers and 37% of English employers reported these as skills gaps.

    Source: Skills for Health AACS LMI report 2010, Sector Skills Assessment 2010 and National Employer Skills Survey 2009

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    NHS Pay rates are agreed at a national level, with some supplementary payments for high cost living areas. The independent health pay review bodies (the NHS Pay Review Body and the Doctors' and Dentists' Review Body) make recommendations to Government on pay awards for doctors, dentists, nurses, health professionals and other NHS staff.

    All NHS staff (except for medics and very senior managers) are covered by a single set of terms and conditions and pay scales known as Agenda for Change. The current Agenda for Change pay levels (April 2010) are below.

    Source: Skills for Health AACS LMI report 2010 and NHS Information Centre website 2010

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    Salary levels (effective 1 April 2010)


    Note: * Very senior managers have pay scales outside Agenda for Change.

    Source: NHS Staff Earnings April - June 2010, Table 3 Basic Pay and Earnings for Agenda for Change Bands.

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    Sources of occupational information

    The Skills for Health Career Framework Tool describes jobs in terms of their career framework level and a range of competences associated with the job roles. The Career Framework consists of nine different levels at which a function could be performed. It aims to help workforce flexibility, providing a common currency to map employees’ competence portfolios, and to identify areas of transferability to other job roles.

    The NHS careers website has extensive information on different jobs in the sector, variously including: roles and responsibilities; special demands; entry requirements; education and training; qualifications; and pay. Jobs are found in the following:

    A variety of key roles in the health and social care sector are identified by Graduate Prospects and detailed information is available. Some selected examples include: adult nurse; biomedical scientist; hospital doctor; physiotherapist; and radiographer. For information on these, and other roles plus case studies on the sector go to the Prospects website.

    The National Careers Service website also has detailed occupational profiles for the health sector under medicine and nursing and medical technology. These profiles include information on entry points, training, working environment, employment opportunities and expected annual salary.

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