Working for the NHS

Engineers and Plumbers are not the first jobs to spring to mind when you think of the NHS.  Assistant Project Manager Ruth Huppach shares her experiences of working for Europe’s biggest employer
and offers an insight into the sheer variety of careers the NHS supports.

My perception of the NHS has changed massively in the last decade.  It wasn’t until I began working for the NHS in 2004 that I realised what a huge entity it really is, a giant engine with an endless number of component parts to ensure it runs smoothly.  I hadn’t appreciated the scale of it – with over 1.3 million employees, it is the biggest employer not only in the UK but in the whole of Europe – and nor had I comprehended the vast and diverse array of roles within the service.


If a contestant on a quiz show was asked to name an NHS job or profession, you could bet that their top answer might be Nurse, Doctor, Surgeon or Midwife.  It’s highly unlikely that any non-clinical roles would feature in the top five or ten responses.  However, non-clinical roles make up approximately 17 per cent of all roles in the NHS and range from Receptionist to Engineer, Accountant to Caterer, Porter to Plumber – a virtually endless list of jobs that don’t require clinical qualifications but are absolutely essential to the day-to-day functioning of the NHS.


My own experience in the NHS has been on the non-clinical side and began when I took on the role of PA to the Chief Executive at NHSU (the former NHS University).  Whilst the job itself demanded similar PA skills to those I had been using in the private sector, joining NHSU meant entering a very different world, where the clinical and non-clinical of the NHS converged ex-Doctors and Nurses, Teachers, Academics, Marketing and Admin Staff, to name but a few, worked together with the common aim of creating and improving learning opportunities within the NHS.


After NHSU I moved into project support and most recently the role of Assistant Project Manager within Skills for Health. I worked on projects to widen participation in learning for staff within the NHS, which opened my eyes further to the range of non-clinical roles available and the routes into them via vocational trainingThe Health Sector Pre-employment Programme, for example, is one such route, a vocational training course aimed at helping young and disadvantaged people move into employment through NHS entry level roles, many of which are non-clinical, such as Domestic Assistant, Receptionist or Medical Records Administrator.


Programmes such as these can also provide a pathway into further qualifications and apprenticeship courses.  Last year approximately 8,000 new apprentices were recruited to the health service, spanning a whole variety of work areas including Human Resources, Horticulture and Information Technology.  Through working in the NHS, I have discovered that it truly is a world in itself and one in which there are countless opportunities to explore, doors to be opened and journeys to be taken.

For further information about working in the NHS see: