Recruiting your support workforce

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Employers are doing a lot of work to ensure new support workers and health care assistants (HCAs) are ready and equipped to provide safe and effective patient care by recruiting them for their values and attitudes, and giving them robust and effective inductions into work.

The Cavendish report has highlighted the need to improve consistency of assurance to those using healthcare services that the support workers caring for them have been tested and trained and are ready to provide good fundamental care.

We have been speaking to employers about what they are doing already. All of those we have spoken to have measures in place to help them to assess potential support workers for their suitability, and to get them ready for practice before they work with patients.

Recognising that each trust, each ward, and each role has its own objectives to fulfil, there is some effective recruitment practice happening consistently across the NHS, all in the name of better patient care. This includes:

Recruiting support workers for their values 

More than ever, trusts are recruiting people for their values, rather than simply their skills and competence.  Those that are doing so effectively are integrating their own organisational values into their recruitment practices, and aligning these to the NHS Constitution, the 6Cs, and Skills for Health's Code of conduct and National minimum training standards for support workers.

Assessment centres allow employers to ensure consistent standards and processes for appointment of HCAs across their organisation. They often take candidates through a series of skills and situational judgement tests (SJTs). SJTs help employers to assess an individual's ability to choose the most appropriate course of action in hypothetical workplace scenarios.

Tests in assessment centres are often followed by interviews for those that are successfully assessed. When implemented properly, values based interviewing techniques help recruiting managers to establish to what extent a person's approach, attitudes and motives align with the demands of the job, the values of the organisation, and the culture of the working environment, alongside their technical ability to carry out the job, thereby contributing to better patient care.

Recruiting staff that match the organisation's values can have a positive impact on staff turnover, sickness absence, morale, health and job satisfaction, improving outcomes for recruiting managers, candidates, staff and, most importantly, patients and their families.

Find out more about what other employers are doing, and how effective they are finding it on our recruiting for values web pages.

Working with Jobcentre Plus

Jobcentre Plus is one of the most experienced recruiters in the country. Find out how working in partnership with Jobcentre Plus can help you streamline your recruitment processes, leading to efficiency and productivity gains.


Showing candidates the reality of the job

Providing applicants with in-depth information about the reality of working as a HCA before they apply to do so is proving very effective in reducing wasted interview time, by deselecting those not right for the role at the early stages. This is currently being done in various ways by different trusts. Examples include via a video link, through online situational judgement tests, or on specially organised open days.

One positive initiative has been the introduction by some trusts of compulsory open days for prospective HCAs to understand what the role is about. Attendees are given a link to the application form, and can only apply once they have attended such an event.  Those who feel they are not right for the role often self-deselect during these processes.

Requiring or providing experience in care

Many trusts make previous care experience a requirement for new HCAs. This varies, some ask for at least 6 months experience, either in a social care or health setting, or at home, and others specify NVQ or QCF Diploma L2 in health and social care as a prerequisite for employment as a support worker.

Some organisations are willing to take on the right candidates to training programmes with no previous experience, provided they demonstrate that they are compassionate and dedicated people with the potential to be successful in a training programme and go on to deliver excellent patient care. In these cases, employers are offering a variety of career pathway options for those joining the service at entry level. Read more about apprenticeship programmes, and use of roles such as assistant practitioners to develop the support workers to improve patient care on our developing your support workforce pages.

Pre-employment checks

Employers know that carrying out employment checks prior to a successful candidate starting a job with them, is crucial if they are to prevent unsuitable candidates entering the health service and working with vulnerable patients. Read our guidance for employers on our employment checks web pages.

Standards and employment checks

A Code of Conduct and Minimum Standards for healthcare support workers in nursing and care sector roles have been launched by Skills for Health and Skills for Care.

Cleaner in corridor

Minimum standards for healthcare support workers

Skills for Health and Skills for Care were commissioned by the Department of Health to jointly develop a code of conduct and standards which set out the minimum training and behavioural requirements for healthcare support worker roles.

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