“The calibre of the interns is just brilliant. For us, the challenge is finding the right skills at entry level band 4 and 5 – I can’t tell you how disappointing it is to be sat in interviews after shortlisting candidates who appear to have the right skills on paper, but then these are not evidenced through the interview. We know that through the scheme, we have the right skills at the right level, and they have proved to be real assets to the teams they have worked in.” 
Michelle Rahman, South East Commissioning Support Unit


GiH_Main_Logo (1)NHS organisations can struggle with entry-level recruitment and diversity, while students find it difficult to access non-clinical roles such as accounting, marketing and law. The Health Innovation Network (HIN) has created and delivers the Graduates into Health programme, which has a 97% retention rate and provides a clear path for top graduates to take on NHS business function roles.

We now have 850 graduates signed up to Graduates into Health, with many from technical backgrounds such as IT, science, technology and mathematics. There are 70 graduate placements in progress, and over 33 job roles – from business support to quantitative surveying.

The Graduates into Health scheme creates an easy way to find fresh talent for hard to recruit roles, reduces the costs of temporary and contract staff, increases productivity and efficiency, and builds a sustainable model for export to the wider NHS.

The programme is part funded by Health Education England, and delivered by the HIN’s Graduates into Health team, who provide a recruitment service for NHS managers, and place graduates into business function NHS roles.

Challenges/ problems identified

NHS organisations struggle with entry-level recruitment and diversity, and HIN found it common for NHS trusts to have vacancies in Bands 3 – 6 throughout their business function teams across the whole of their financial year – and this pattern remains whether the trust is based in central London, outer London or the south east regions. This results in hundreds of vacancies being left unfilled across trusts, decreased team productivity, and an over-reliance on costly contractors.

The NHS tends to recruit through NHS jobs, which fails to produce the skills managers need, and increases the reliance on agencies and contractors. Many organisations struggle to get the right level of skills, while university careers services can be ill-informed about job opportunities in the NHS beyond clinical roles.

While the NHS Management Trainee Scheme is highly-regarded, it provides only hundreds of places for the thousands of students who apply nationally. This leaves talented graduates coming through the HEI system without access to business function roles such as accounting, marketing, and project management.

HIN discovered that universities find it impossible to link into each NHS organisation, so cannot utilise opportunities to guide students towards NHS careers, which would improve their graduate employability targets by engaging with the third largest employer in Europe.

These issues mean NHS organisations can miss out on forming closer, more enduring links with their communities and on benefiting from improved links with education providers. Likewise, universities can miss opportunities to signpost and guide students towards NHS careers, helping them meet their graduate employability targets and improve their league table position.

Actions taken

850graduatesThe HIN set up the Graduates into Health programme to build capacity and support NHS healthcare providers with entry-level recruitment, giving new graduates and students opportunities to find employment in the NHS in south London.

HIN is uniquely placed to lead this area of work, through well established relationships with our NHS members, the wider health care system, and south London’s seven universities, from which thousands of young people graduate every year. As a membership organisation, we used connections between universities and healthcare providers to innovate and test new ideas, building capacity and value in a vital part of the service.

The HIN’s Graduates into Health team deliver a graduate recruitment service between universities and the NHS, reducing transaction time and money for both parties – and ensuring a streamlined service to introduce future talent. We take care of the entire process; from identify high-calibre candidates to writing job descriptions, which reduces costs and cuts down on recruitment time. Our service was created by the NHS for the NHS, and is free at the point of service.

The scheme takes students and graduates from one-day-a-week up to full-time, one-year positions across a wide spectrum of roles, including IT, project management, procurement/supply, financing, communications, contracting, risk management and HR.


Graduates into Health has a 97% retention rate, finding enthusiastic talent who can be recruited into full employment, and increasing organisational productivity as graduates fill vacant hard to fill roles – allowing senior team members to focus on service improvements.

Our current Graduates into Health figures are:

• 850 graduates signed up to the programme who are all keen to work in the NHS
• Many graduates from technical IT, science, technology and mathematics backgrounds
• Working with over 30 organisations across south London
• Around 70 graduate placements in progress, including a significant number with Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust
• Over 33 job roles, from business support to quantitative surveying.

HIN - Graduates into HealthOnce in their new role the graduate begins a training programme to upskill them, to allow them to progress to more senior roles and replace contractors over time. The training programmes will be graduate level apprenticeships in each of the job areas, such as Data Analyst Level 4, which allows trusts to utilise the Apprenticeship Levy.

One strand of the graduate recruitment service focuses on Information Management and Technology roles, which are particularly difficult to fill – there is a high reliance on contractors across the system, leading to transient teams and costing the NHS millions in contractor fees. The programme recruits graduates from information management and technology backgrounds and places them in current NHS vacancies, such as data analysts, IT project managers, IT change managers, clinical coders, and cyber security.

This strand benefits both the NHS and universities, by reducing NHS over-reliance on contractors and by improving university computing graduate employment rates. Nationally this is one of the most challenging subject areas for future employment, with 14% graduates still unemployed after six months.

“Through the professional service provided by the NHS Graduate Scheme we have attracted dynamic, motivated people, keen to bring fresh ideas and enthusiasm to their roles, while being able to significantly reduce costs of hiring new staff.”
Rob Grover, South East CSU

Plans for the future

Graduates into Health is currently expanding from south London, to encompass the whole of London and its surrounding areas. The HIN-led programme will be delivered in surrounding regions to facilitate spread and adoption into the health care system.

From 2017/ 2018 onwards Graduates into Health is being delivered in collaboration with:

• London and South East Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs): Kent Surrey Sussex, Imperial College Health Partners and UCLPartners
• The Office of the Mayor of London
• Academic Health Science Centres (AHSCs): King’s Health Partners, Imperial and UCLP
• NHS England Digital Team
• DigitalHealth.London
• Information Management and Technology graduate apprenticeship providers
• London universities

Which national clinical or policy priorities does this example address?

  • Capacity-building and developing the NHS workforce
  • Funding and Efficiency
  • Driving Economic Growth.

Find out more


Start and end dates

2015 – ongoing.

Contact for help and advice

Louise Brennan, Graduates into Health Manager
E: louise.brennan5@nhs.net

Helen Apsey, Media and Communications Manager
T: 020 7188 7188 extension 54141
E: h.apsey@nhs.net