• Tara Humphrey

NHS recruitment trends primary care networks need to be aware of

Updated: Sep 26





With activity levels expected to remain high for the foreseeable, many healthcare providers have and are continuing to experience challenges in recruitment.

In January 2021, NHS Employers shared their Seven Trends in Recruitment for 2021 that all Primary Care Networks need to be aware of. These trends remain highly relevant as we move forward with recruitment plans across the spectrum of healthcare.


As a PCN specialist working with multiple clients to support their day-to-day running, including recruitment, I have the advantage of seeing how these trends play out across different teams and regions. If we consider the NHS Employer trends, I’ve applied practical principles for those working operationally in PCNs on the ground.

Trend 1: The Management of High Volumes of Recruitment

NHS Employers Report: The labour market is currently favourable to employers. Therefore, managing increased numbers of applicants while maintaining a good candidate experience requires the adaptation of processes and strategies to remain efficient.

On the ground: Despite the variety of roles on offer across Primary Care Networks, we are all fishing from the same pool, particularly now as a result of the establishment of remote working within the sector. Many networks are not seeing the volume of candidates with the experience they are looking for, so creating and offering a robust training package is critical.

Trend 2: Using Automation Technologies

NHS Employers Report: Automating tasks in the recruitment process will help make recruiting quicker and improve the candidate experience. One hour saved per day in recruitment administration is equal to 260 hours per year. Multiply that across your recruitment team, and that is valuable time that can be allocated to other priorities.

On the ground: If you’re considering the technology route, which will require financial investment, the NHS funding stream allocated to building multi-disciplinary staff pools could be an option.


Alongside this, exploration internally with your PCN, other PCNs, GP Federations, community or private partners to refine your systems, processes and employment package is a good place to start.

Trend 3: Remote Candidate Experience

NHS Employers Report: Nearly 4 in 5 candidates (78%) say the overall candidate experience they receive is an indicator of how an organisation values its people.

This statistic is extremely important when considering a long-term shift towards more online recruitment processes. Ensuring processes remain fair, inclusive and provide a good candidate experience is an important element in becoming an employer of choice.

On the ground: The above principles are also applicable here in ensuring a positive experience.

Trend 4: Inclusive Recruitment

NHS Employers Report: White applicants are 1.46 times more likely to be appointed from shortlisting than BAME applicants. 23% of the NHS workforce are men opposed to 77% who are women.

Addressing biases in your recruitment systems and processes will continue to be an important focus to ensure your workforce reflects the community it serves.

On the ground: One of the many good aspects of a Primary Care Network is the diverse set of roles. Bring together a panel that can support inclusive hiring is the formation of a recruitment panel that includes a diverse set of roles and people.

Check and challenge assumptions and consider skills and experience first. When thinking about cultural fit, the Harvard Business Review defines a cultural fit as:

"The likelihood that someone will reflect and be able to adapt to the core beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours that make up your organisation."

A cultural add, on the other hand, is as defined by openviewpartners.com as:

"The likelihood that someone will not only reflect the company's values and professional ethics, but also bring an aspect of diverse opinions, experiences, and specialised skill which enhances not just the team, but the overall company culture."

We want to grow and add to our culture. We have diverse populations, so the sector requires a diverse workforce. Not only that but a diverse workforce is repeatedly proven to generate more profits and innovation.

Trend 5: Recruiting the Future Workforce

NHS Employers Report: By 2025, millennials will make up 75% of the global workforce. The NHS has an ageing workforce, and young people are underrepresented. You can act on this by opening opportunities to more young people and ensuring recruitment and selection processes are accessible.

On the ground: Kick start programmes, the NHS Internship Scheme, apprenticeships, recruitment fairs, careers days, placements and work experience are all areas that PCNs can explore and should form part of recruitment plans. Talent is there to be recruited but there must be an investment in time, education, training, and organisational attractiveness if we want to recruit and retain people.

Trend 6: Culture Matters More

NHS Employers Report: 73% of surveyed adults would not apply to an organisation unless the values aligned with their own.

Prospective employees are increasingly seeking more meaningful workplace experiences, within an organisation where values align. For employers recruiting based on the values of prospective employees matters too.

On the ground: Creating a PCN People plan is an excellent place to start if you haven't already articulated your network's vision and values.

We need all practices and partners to be in the same place when it comes to how we treat our staff, contractors and the environment we are trying to foster. Check out the NHS Confederation's Summary of the NHS People Plan for some ideas and inspiration. Please note this doesn't have to be a lengthy document and can form a section within your PCN business plan or HR plans.

Trend 7: Economic Recovery and the Demand for Talent

NHS Employers Report: 72% of candidates who had a bad recruitment experience will tell others about it.

As the economy begins to recover following the pandemic, there will be a huge demand to fill vacancies across sectors. When there are ample employment opportunities, you will need to work even harder to attract talent. Your recruitment experience needs to be good, process efficient, and your employer brand strong.

On the ground: With many primary care networks next-door neighbours, we need to ensure we maintain the highest standards:

  • Do not cancel interviews last minute

  • Start interviews on time

  • Arrive well prepared and fully present

  • Follow up and provide feedback to the unsuccessful candidates promptly

Although obvious points, these are the areas that I think many of us can point to when thinking back on our own poor interview experience.

Trend 8: Premises Planning (an additional point not on the NHS Employers Trend list and specific to PCNs)

With the recruitment of more additional roles, the lack of space is increasingly becoming an issue for GP practices.

Remote working works well for many, but the downside is integrating roles into a network.

On the ground: Many PCNs are starting to band together with the support of their clinical commissioning groups to:

  • Look at estates in the community which are not fully utilised

  • Create new hubs

  • Increase the technological infrastructure to ensure PCN team members can productively work from home

In March 2021, The Kings Fund produced Remote Working ToolKit for General Practices and Primary Care Network. This is a valuable toolkit for those who are considering or already working remotely due to lack of space or new ways of working.

Further Resources

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(If you take the time to do them).

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Tara has an MBA in Healthcare Leadership and Management, published in the London Journal of Primary Care and hosts The Business of Healthcare Podcast.

Tara has written blogs for the NHS Confederation, appeared on the General Practice Podcast and the You are Not a Frog Podcast with Dr Rachel Morris.

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A mother of 3 children, working with healthcare professionals is not just a job for her, it's part of everyday life. Tara’s youngest has Type 1 Diabetes and her middle child has the kidney condition, Nephrotic Syndrome. She has developed a huge passion for helping others to deliver excellent care.


Find out more about THC Primary Care and follow me on Twitter.


Tara is the MD of THC Primary Care that provides:

  • Interim management to Primary Care Networks

  • Training to PCN Managers and Coaching to PCN Clinical Directors

  • Facilitation to primary care teams