Public Sector V/S Private Sector – Which Should You Choose?

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One of the biggest decisions you will have to make after you graduate from medical or nursing is whether to join the public sector or whether you should take up a job in the private sector. The public sector includes the NHS and the armed forces. The private sector includes independent healthcare organisations and other assorted employers. There are several pros and cons to each and which one you choose depends on your personal preferences and ultimate goal.

A quick photo before heading into surgery Public Sector

NHS: Funded by the government, the NHS is undoubtedly the best-known face of healthcare in the UK. Within the NHS you can be employed in any one of the following three areas:  

  1. Primary care, which deals with patients when they first become aware of a health problem.
  2. Secondary or emergency care, which deals with patients who are sent from a primary care doctor. Conditions treated at this stage are more likely to be acute or specialist in nature.
  3. Tertiary care, which relates to specialist care such as cardiac surgery or renal transplant.

The armed forces: The Armed Forces of UK employs physicians and nurses across all specialties to work in the UK and at overseas bases. Employers include the Royal Navy, the Royal Air Force and the British Army.

Private Sector

Independent healthcare organisations: Independent, private healthcare organisations are the primary providers of long-term care in the UK. Although they have fewer acute hospitals as compared to the NHS, they play a pivotal role by providing routine surgery which helps reduce the waiting lists for acute care. Private healthcare employers can be divided into three main categories: for profit, not for profit charities and voluntary organisations.

Other independent healthcare employers could include schools, commercial organisations such as pharmaceutical companies, certain industries that require occupational health professionals and recruitment agencies.

Making your choices

One of the biggest influencing factors is the client group you would like to work with. The public as well as the independent sector both deal with all members of the community but broad generalisations can be made within that. One of the most prominent differences is that most primary care provisions are carried out by the NHS while the majority of care homes are run by independent organisations.

Other factors that you should take into consideration include:

  • Career prospects – The NHS is a better option for someone who is looking to pursue a more defined career path. The independent sector is less likely to fulfil all your career aspirations.
  • Culture and objectives of the employer – There is no escaping the bureaucracy that is prevalent in the public sector. While if does not matter to some people, others may find it stifling. The private sector offers you more autonomy and this can be a major deciding factor for many.  
  • Salary – The NHS and the armed forces have a set pay scale with no room for negotiations whereas in the private sector where salaries are not set, you have to negotiate the best deal for you.
  • Terms and conditions – The terms and conditions are clearly stated with the NHS and the armed forces. However, terms and conditions regarding things such as annual increments and annual leave allowances vary from one employer to another. It is important to read the fine print before signing up with any private organisation.

Whichever employer you decide to choose, it’s worth remembering that there’s nothing to stop you from switching your career direction at any point should you feel you have made the wrong decision. Switching between the public and private sector has become even easier today given the current shortage of doctors and nurses across all specialties.

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