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Where should I work in the UK as a Nurse? Things to consider in choosing where to work as a UKRN

Updated: Sep 6, 2022

Where do I work in the UK as a nurse? Because of the numerous options available, nurse applicants are getting overwhelmed and confused on which job to apply for or to accept.

Here are 3 factors to consider in choosing the best place for you to start your UK nursing Journey.

FACTOR 1- Location, location, location!

1. A significant part of your living cost is your house rent/mortgage fee. If you want to have an idea on how much it is to live in a specific area in UK, you can check the house prices via sites such as Zoopla or Rightmove.

London has been a popular choice for nurses. Many nurses still opt to work and live within the city because of the vast career opportunities, ease of commute (you can go around the city without any need for a car) and vibrant culture. But living in this prime city comes with a price. Cost of living in London is high. A 1 bed flat in London can range from £800-£2000/month, depending on zone or proximity to the central hub. For a nurse, this may mean that most of your pay may just go to your housing expense as the average nurse may receive a monthly salary of £1800-£2000.

2. The farther you live from London, the cheaper house prices can be (at least for most places in the UK). There are nurses who work in the countryside or other towns/cities far from London. In fact there are more than 80 cities besides London. If you are a nurse who wants to live in the city, places such as Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham can be a good option for you. You get to enjoy a city life with cheaper housing costs. As an example, a 1 bed flat in Manchester can cost £595-1,000/ month.

Illustration1.Monthly Expense of a Filipino UK Nurse who moved from London to the countryside of the UK

But what if you really want to work in London? Can I live in the countryside and work in London?

The UK has very good transportation links. This allows anyone who live in the surrounding places around London to commute into the city for work. There are nurses who work in Central London but live in the countryside such as Bedfordshire, Kent, Guildford etc.

But be aware that most of them to leave early just to catch the early morning train schedule, or some have to live away from their homes during weekdays and stay on temporary accommodation.

What you need to do: if Location is your priority, do your research, plan and assess your situation. Can you afford the cost of living in your preferred location? Or would there be alternatives available?

Related Article: Guide to UK Transportation

FACTOR 2- Salary and Benefits

1. If you work in the NHS, regardless of your trust or location, salaries are standard. If you work in the care home or private health care sector, your standard offer may be higher than what the NHS is offering but required work hours may be longer too.

Most overseas nurses would start at Entry level Band 5 at £27,055, some trusts do consider previous nursing experience but often everyone starts at the entry level. NHS pay is based on a banding scale. Even with the increase, this may not be enough to cover the increasing living cost. To increase their disposable income, nurses do additional work by doing bank shifts or agency work. Some would opt to live outside London where house prices can be cheaper.

To help with the high cost of living, NHS employees who are working in London and its fringe areas are entitled to the additional allowance which we call as the High Cost Allowance (HCA) or London Weighting. Your allowance would depend on where in London you’re working. In the illustration 1 (see above), the Filipino UK Nurse was receiving the same salary but with High Cost Allowance.

Salaries offered in the social care sector (care home, complex care, nursing homes) would depend on the employer. Some are offering more than the standard offer of the NHS. There are nurses who start at £30,000 (Band 5 equivalent) but the hours required may also be longer. There are employers that would require a 39-40 hour work shift compared to the 37.5 hour standard hours of NHS.

If salary is one of your key priorities, best to do some maths. How much would be your monthly bills? A higher pay does not mean a higher disposable income.

2. Working in NHS comes with perks such as generous pension scheme, sick pay and access to Blue light discounts. There are other benefits provided but these 3 are the unique offerings of NHS.

NHS Pension is considered as one of the most comprehensive schemes in the UK. Employees contribute towards their pension. Amount would vary depending on the salary of the employee. In return, NHS would top the employee contribution of up to 20.68%. This is considered as one of the best in the industry. Other private companies only offer the minimal contribution which is 3%. To know more about NHS pension, has created an article that explains its details.

Sick pay benefit is important especially for overseas nurses who have no access to UK government benefits or public funds. Most companies would only offer the statutory sick pay which is £99.35/week and paid up to 28 weeks. NHS offers a sick pay benefit to up to 6 months full pay & 6 months half pay, depending on the length of service of the employee.

Blue Light card is a discount service for those who are working in the emergency services, armed forces and NHS. This allows holders access to discounts & cash back to high street retailers and shops.

Here's a link to Blue Light NHS Discounts.

It might be worth asking to your prospective employers the benefits they provide and assess too if these benefits matter to you.

FACTOR 3. Career Progression opportunities

1. There are a lot of career opportunities for Nurses in the UK.

It’s the Nursing Market now. Nurses are in demand—nowadays, there are also nurse specialist roles available across various trusts. Even in the private sector, nurses are also becoming in-demand. There are nurses working in the insurance, pharmaceutical, education and research sector.

During the 1st 5 years, overseas nurses are usually restricted to move from one company to another. However that does not mean that you can’t progress—you can move to different units across your trust/company. NHS may offer more opportunities than smaller employers, but because of its size too, that may also mean you have more people to compete with.

Opportunities are there but you need to have determination and grit for you to progress. Overseas nurses need to be more proactive in applying for study days and course that could allow career progression either vertically or horizontally. Vertical promotion can be a promotion into management or becoming a specialist. Lateral career progression would mean moving into a new unit or learning new specialisms or skills. To know more about career pathways or specialisms available, visit our Specialisms guide where we feature stories of Filipino UK Nurses.

Coming to the UK to work is not a simple walk in the park for Filipino nurses. The UK can offer better opportunities but can also offer challenges that may prove daunting for any immigrant. Of course everyone has different goals and experiences, however knowing where in the UK to start, financial knowhow and career progression overview are important factors to consider when starting your UK Nursing career.

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