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Sector LMI - Health

The health sector comprises:

  • National Health Service (NHS)
  • Independent Health care Sector (such as private and charitable healthcare providers)
  • Third Sector (health care) (such as small local community and voluntary groups, registered charities, foundations, trusts, social enterprises and co-operatives)

The health sector is made up of hospitals, doctors’ surgeries, dental practices, the ambulance service, nursing homes, residential care homes, complementary medicine and a huge range of other health related activities, from sight tests in opticians to research in medical laboratories. Most people in the health sector work in the publicly funded National Health Service (NHS), which includes:

  • primary care (organisations which the public goes to first) – Doctors/General Practitioners (GPs), NHS Walk in Centres, NHS Direct, Out of Hours Emergency Care
  • secondary care (organisations which the public are referred onto) – Ambulance Trusts, NHS Trusts/hospitals, NHS Foundation Trusts/hospitals, Mental Health Trusts, Care Trusts (provide joint health and social care activities)

There are opportunities to work in private health: hospital treatments, fixed-price surgery, cosmetic surgery and dentistry, laser eye surgery, health insurance, infertility treatment, psychiatric care and medical laboratories. Alternative/complementary therapies (like acupuncture, aromatherapy, chiropractic, homeopathy etc.) are growing industries, but remain in general, outside of the NHS. Many such practitioners are self-employed. The Armed Forces, Local Authorities and Charities are also significant employers in the health sector.

There are an estimated 300,000 people volunteering in the NHS in England. There are a wide range of roles undertaken by volunteers across the sector, such serving tea, driving, ‘meeters and greeters’, radio presenters and counsellors.

Key facts

  • The NHS is one of the largest employers in the world and the sixth largest sector in the UK.
  • The UK health sector employs approximately 2.1 million people, which is around 6% of the working population.
  • 72% of the workforce are employed in the NHS, 26% in the independent healthcare sector and 2% in the third sector.
  • Over 1.5 million healthcare workers are employed by the National Health Service in England.
  • 90% of nurses are female and 73% of paramedics are male.
  • In the medium-term, employment in the sector will reduce slightly.
  • There are over 300 different careers in the health sector.
  • 78% of the workforce are female and 45% of the workforce are over 45 years.
  • 15% of the workforce are from a Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic group.

Education and training

Because many occupations in this sector require specific skills, it is often necessary to have gained a relevant degree or diploma before entering a career. As a result, the health sector has a more highly skilled workforce than other sectors of the economy. 61% hold a Level 4 or above qualification. The importance of degrees is growing within the sector, particularly for nurses.

Knowledge and skills requried in the sector are constantly changing so staff are expected to participate in ongoing learning and development. Training can also take place on-the-job, and continuing development is a current priority within the NHS and its modernisation agenda. The 2004 Knowledge and Skills framework introduced a new system which specifies the knowledge and skills each post holder will need. This has encouraged take-up in NVQs (qualifications which are assessed in the workplace by gathering evidence of skills).

The health care sector offers significantly more off-the-job training than the English economy as a whole, much of which is job-specific. However, staff shortages and funding issues can act as obstacles to training.

Salary levels

Pay levels vary dramatically in this sector according to roles, qualifications, responsibilities and experience. Some idea of this range can be seen in the salaries of a selection of healthcare workers below. (Many workers in this sector earn a significant amount through overtime and allowances. These are not included).

  • For Care Assistants salaries will start at around £11,000 a year and can rise to £17,000 with experience and qualifications.
  • Nurses can earn between £20,200 and £26,200 a year. This can rise further for those wishing to take on management responsibilities.
  • Paramedics can earn between £19,700 and £25,500 a year.
  • The salary of a radiographer starts from £19,600 but can rise to £37,000 with experience and responsibilities.
  • Junior doctors can earn between £21,000 and £26,000 a year. This rises when they begin to train in specialisms.
  • GP salaries can be around £76,000 a year whilst consultants can earn between £70,000 and £160,000 a year.

Future prospects

Overall, the sector requires more employees and there have been measures to recruit more doctors, nurses, midwives and health visitors, therapists and scientists, and health care assistants. However, this sector is under significant financial pressures and there is a risk of job cuts in some areas. It is predicted that the health sector workforce in the UK will steadily decrease between 2010-2020. However, there will be a need to replace 800,000 employees that those who will leave the sector between 2010-2020. Forecasts report that there will a reduction in the overall number of people working within administrative and secretarial occupations, and elementary occupations.

Current vacancies in the sector do not indicate that there will be long-term shortages.

Therapeutic radiographers and occupational therapists are particularly in demand. One of the fastest growing areas within the health sector is information management technology (‘health informatics’).

The future of the health sector is likely to be driven by the following factors:

  • Documents published by the NHS describe an intended move towards a more patient-led NHS. This is predicted to affect the structure of the NHS and reduce the number Strategic Health Authorities and Primary Care Trusts. A range of new roles are being created and less senior staff are being given greater responsibility.
  • The NHS is currently planning and implementing massive change to its IT systems by 2010 and modernise the service with new technology.
  • This will make patient information more available and allow improved communication between different groups of health professionals.
  • The ageing population in the UK will affect both treatment and staffing. Care and treatment of conditions related to old age have been prioritised in the NHS Plan. Statistics from NHS Scotland reveal that the majority of clinical staff are aged over 40.


NGRF - LMI Futures Trends

Skills for Health

Graduate Prospects

Skills for Health Sector Skills Assessment 2012

icould careers videos

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