When it comes to working for the healthcare industry in the UK, there are several considerations you should bear in mind before committing to either the National Health Service or the Private Sector. Both the NHS and the Private Sector considerably differentiate from one another, whilst each offering a number of benefits and challenges. These differences include variations in pay, training and regulations. Although the NHS now works in conjunction with the private sector, it may be constructive to be aware of the different working conditions each sector has to offer. Here are the advantages and disadvantages of working for the NHS vs. The Private Sector.

Working For the NHS

Because it is publicly funded, working for the UK’s largest employer of healthcare professionals offers a number of advantages that could be seen to be more auspicious than working for the Private Sector. However, this is for you to decide. Here we will discuss the positives and negatives of being apart of the National Health Service.


Job Security

Since the NHS is funded by taxpayers, nursing jobs tend to be more secure than the jobs offered by the private sector. Private investors and independent contractors may not always be around, but the existence of the NHS will be. Furthermore, over recent years, the public sector has added an increasing number of healthcare positions, due to shortages. Many workers who have spent their entire career working in the private sector, are now looking to move over to the public.


The Nursing Times found that, on average, nurses earnt almost £5k more per year working for the NHS rather than privately. Because private companies do not have the same minimum salary requirements as the NHS, private nurses are often at the mercy of their employers. In general, overall pay rates in the public sector are higher than the private sector. But a recent study showed the hourly wage doctors received had dropped significantly, in median real earning. For a more in-depth explanation, take a read of this article.

Career Opportunities

Because the NHS is under-resourced and roles are massively in demand, there is a huge potential for professional growth within the NHS. You’re far more likely, as a junior doctor, to be thrown in the deep end and exposed to a number of varying conditions. You’ll also be needed to work alongside a diverse mix of other health care professionals, providing the chance to develop valuable skills.

Within the NHS, there are also medical research opportunities available for those professionals with research experience. If you have a PhD and strong background in medicine or science, you can find work in clinical research, especially biochemistry.

The Drawbacks of NHS Work

Nevertheless, working for the NHS is not all positive. Because of the scale of the organisation, there is a considerable delay in changes being addressed. The bureaucracy within the National Health Service often takes a significant amount of time to resolve and settle any problems that arise.

Furthermore, publically funded hospitals are generally much more crowded leading to larger workloads and creating hectic working environments. In conjunction with staff shortages, these conditions within healthcare practices often lead to a delayed and lower quality of patient care.

The NHS professional hierarchy is also known for being harder to climb than the private sector. Because of the vast number of nurses competing for promotions, it can take several years to make your way to the top positions.

two doctors consulting

Working for The Private Sector

If the thought the chaotic nature of the NHS and possible struggle for promotions is playing on your mind, then luckily there are thousands of private sector positions. There are a number of benefits that working for the private sector offers.

Lighter Work Loads

Because private healthcare providers are much smaller, the nurses working for these providers tend to have a much lighter workload. This allows the nurses to provide the care and attention their patients need and ensures each patient receives a more personalised care experience.

Job Satisfaction

Private healthcare providers are also known for paying the individual employees much more attention than the NHS does. The private sector offers highly flexible working hours that are immensely desirable if you have a family. If you wish to raise a family, or already have one that you’d prefer to spend more time with, then a job in the private sector may offer the flexibility you require, without having to sacrifice your career. The professional hierarchy within the Private Sector is also much easier to climb, reaching the higher positions much quicker than you would in the NHS.


When it comes to pay, the possible amount you can earn when working for the private sector often depends largely on the area of speciality you pursue. As stated before, it tends to be that pay rates are overall higher in the public sector; however, you may find that the more qualified professionals receive much higher salaries in the private sector.

Furthermore, because the minimum wage is the only set pay grade, those looking to work in the private sector are able to negotiate a salary they’re satisfied with.

The Drawbacks of Working Within the Private Sector

Because the Private Sector is not publically funded, nurses are fully reliant on the success of their employer. This means healthcare positions lack the same level of security that can be found in the NHS. A lot of nurses will look for job security rather than flexibility, regardless of the stress that is connected with the NHS.

You may also find that, although working conditions can be less stressful, the salary you receive might not be as generous as what you could take from a job in the NHS. You may also receive less holiday time or sick days when working for a private company. However, this is entirely dependent on the individual organisation and employer.
consultation with a doctor


Hopefully, the advice included in this guide has given a balanced view of working for the NHS vs working for The Private Sector. You have to consider which sector of work will best complement your lifestyle.

Nevertheless, it is important to remember that there is nothing stopping you from switching from one sector to the other. Due to the current shortages of nurses, many of those who struggled in the past to get back into the NHS, no longer find this an issue. It is now quite common for NHS nurses to also pursue independent nursing agency work at the same time. If you are looking for a medical recruitment company to find suitable work for you, then get in touch with us today.

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