Become a Healthcare Assistant

Healthcare assistants help with the day-to-day care of patients, either in hospitals or in patients’ own homes. If you would like to care for people and make a positive difference to their lives, this could be the ideal job for you. Employers will be keen to see that you have a friendly and caring attitude, and understand and respect people who need healthcare support. Previous experience and/or qualifications in care will be helpful although you may be able to start as a trainee assistant without formal qualifications. You may also be able to get in to this career through an apprenticeship scheme.

Work activities

As a healthcare assistant you would work under the supervision of nursing staff. Your duties could include:

• Helping patients to wash, shower or dress
• Serving food or helping people eat
• Making and changing beds
• Turning patients who are confined to bed to avoid pressure sores
• Talking to patients to help them feel less anxious
• Helping patients to move around if they find it difficult
• Giving out and collecting bedpans, and helping patients to the toilet
• Making sure the ward or patients’ homes are tidy
• Keeping supplies and equipment in order
• Taking and recording observations such as temperature, pulse and breathing

Your day-to-day work may include using mobility aids and equipment to help lift and move patients. In hospitals you may also escort patients between departments. With experience, you may be involved in induction training for new healthcare assistants. 

Healthcare assistants are also known as support workers, nursing assistants and nursing auxiliaries. 

Working hours and conditions

You would usually work around 37 hours a week on a shift or rota system, including nights, bank holidays and weekends. Flexible and part-time hours are often available.

You could work in the community or in a hospital setting. If you work in the community, you are likely to travel throughout the day between patients’ homes. A driving licence may be needed for some jobs.


Starting salaries in the NHS are between £15,000 and £18,000 a year. With experience, this can rise to around £20,000*.

Extra allowances may be paid for working unsocial hours, like nights, weekends and bank holidays.

*Figures are intended as a guideline only. 

Entry requirements

You may be able to start in some jobs as a trainee without formal qualifications, although some GCSEs or a qualification in health or care will be helpful. Previous experience (paid or voluntary) in a healthcare role will give you an advantage.

Many colleges and private training providers offer for example the Level 2 Diploma in Health and Social Care, to help improve your chances of finding work.  You may be able to become a healthcare assistant through an apprenticeship scheme.

Disclosure and Barring Service

Depending on your job, your employer may carry out background checks through the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) to make sure that you are suitable to work with vulnerable people. 

Training and development

Once you start work you will receive on the job training from your employer, which is likely to cover:

  • Clinical hygiene
  • Health and safety
  • Techniques for lifting and moving patients
  • Personal care
  • Measuring and recording temperature, pulse, breathing and weight
  • Developing communication and interpersonal skills

What progression opportunities are available?

You may also be encouraged to work towards qualifications like the Level 3 Diploma in Healthcare Support Services or Level 3 Diploma in Clinical Healthcare Support. These contain several options and you would pick the ones relevant to your work duties.

With the right training and support you could become an assistant practitioner, working in the community or on hospital wards under the supervision of nursing staff.

If you have a Level 3 qualification like Diplomas mentioned earlier, you might be in a position to apply to train as a healthcare professional, for example, as a nurse, radiographer, dietitian or midwife. You may be able to do the training part-time on a secondment basis. 

You could work in the NHS, private hospitals, local authority or private residential and nursing homes, in hospices, with private agencies and in the community. Experience as a healthcare assistant would be a good way to prepare for a range of health related careers, for example in nursing, midwifery and social work. You could also move into specialist support work or assistant practitioner roles in the areas of chiropody/podiatry, occupational therapy, radiography or physiotherapy.

Skills, interests and qualities

As a healthcare assistant you would need:

  • A friendly and caring personality
  • The ability to relate to people from a wide variety of backgrounds
  • Tact and sensitivity
  • An understanding and respectful approach to patients from all backgrounds
  • The ability to work on your own initiative and as part of a team
  • An understanding of the importance of confidentiality
  • Patience and a sense of humour

Apprenticeship Course factsheet

Full Time Course factsheet

Part Time Course factsheet

For further information contact Or telephone 01642 804000

Key Details

  • Healthcare assistants help with the day-to-day care of patients, either in hospitals or in patients’ own homes.
  • Healthcare assistants are also known as support workers, nursing assistants and nursing auxiliaries.

Course Downloads


  • You would usually work around 37 hours a week on a shift or rota system.
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