Working full time for the NHS vs an agency: which path to choose?

As a nurse, you’re dedicated, passionate about helping people and ready to go above and beyond at a moment’s notice. Simply put, nurses are the backbone of the healthcare sector.

For many nurses, working full time for the NHS is a lifelong dream come true. But while it’s exciting and rewarding to be part of a treasured national institution, NHS roles can be challenging for a lot of reasons.

If you’re wondering whether to switch to agency nursing or make a little extra money by topping up your  hours with agency work, you’re in the right place. In this article, we’ll go over the differences between NHS and agency nursing roles, so that you can decide what to do next.

Working for the NHS

The NHS helps millions of people in the UK get healthcare easily. Because it’s a publicly funded government institution, care professionals working directly for the NHS benefit from job security and stability.

As an NHS healthcare professional, you get:

  • A regular, fixed salary payment, which can help you plan your finances every month.
  • A pension scheme with a generous employer contribution so that you can prepare for retirement.
  • A range of benefits, like paid sick leave and maternity leave.
  • Other benefits, like Discounts for Carers, Health Service Discounts and Blue Light Card perks.
  • Training and development opportunities, so you can learn new skills and move forward in your career.

Working for the NHS can be really fulfilling, and many care professionals spend their whole careers in the service.

Working with agencies

Agencies help hospitals, care homes and other facilities cover staff shortages and fill shift gaps. Nurses, care assistants and support workers who work with agencies gain a lot of experience working in different care settings.

If you choose to work with an agency, you’ll get:

  • A generous hourly rate, which can help cover holiday pay and short-term sickness pay.
  • A private pension, which you can use to save for retirement.
  • Other benefits, like Discounts for Carers, Health Service Discounts and Blue Light Card perks.
  • Flexible hours and variety, which can help you gain a better work-life balance.
  • Better control over your hours so that you can work more or less per month, depending on your needs.

Many agency care professionals like the control they gain over when and where they work, and enjoy working in different parts of the health and social care sector.

Things to consider

If you want to work full time for either the NHS or an agency, it can be hard to decide which option to pick. The choice you make will depend on how you prefer to work and your priorities.

You might decide to stay in your NHS role if:

  • You like working with the same team and in the same environment every day.
  • You value your NHS pension and want to keep it.
  • You want to keep benefits like paid sick leave and maternity leave.

Agency work might be right for you if:

  • You value flexibility and want to make your work-life balance better.
  • You enjoy variety and want to work in a range of different healthcare settings.
  • You prefer to earn more per hour and set money aside for holidays and short-term sickness.

It’s important to remember that even if you switch to a full-time agency role, you can later go back to the NHS. Similarly, if you keep working for the NHS full time and find it’s not for you, you can switch to agency work.

Topping up your income

If you’re happy with your full-time NHS role but want to earn more money by topping up your income, you can use an agency to pick up extra shifts. Many care professionals working for the NHS choose this route because it’s a happy middle ground.

Working with Florence

Florence is different from traditional healthcare staffing agencies. Instead of waiting for a call from your agency contact, you can apply for the shifts you want using the Florence app.

More Florence benefits include:

  • Generous hourly rates, which make it possible to plan for time off.
  • NHS and social care shifts near you.
  • A private pension to make retirement planning easier.
  • Instant Pay option (up to 60% of your pay after your shift ends, for a small fee).
  • Being part of a team, but more in charge of your career.
  • Full control over when you take holiday.
  • The reassurance of a clinical governance team to keep you safe.
  • 24/7 support from a friendly team.

Bonus: as a Florence care professional, you can access 70+ CPD-accredited courses online at Florence Academy, one great course to start with is our free First Aid course. We also offer revalidation support for nurses.

A vital role

In the end, it’s up to you to decide if you want to work full time for the NHS or an agency, or if you want to top up your NHS income with agency shifts.

If you like working in the same environment every day and want to keep your current benefits, you might decide to stick with your NHS role. But if you value flexibility and a variety of experiences, you might prefer working full time for an agency. You can also choose a hybrid NHS/agency route, like many other NHS care professionals.

No matter what you decide, you’ll play a vital role in your team and provide essential services to people in need – and that’s priceless.

Florence can help you find flexible shifts near you, take essential training courses and improve your work-life balance. Find out more and sign up today.

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