How to get promoted through the NHS nursing bands

How to get promoted through the NHS nursing bands
How to get promoted through the NHS nursing bands

posted 28 Mar 24

Everyone loves a promotion, and nurses are no different. However, pay progression works differently in the NHS and it can be confusing to understand how to reach a higher pay band.

In this article, we’ll help you kick-start your career in British healthcare and progress to the level of a newly qualified or entry-level nurse at Band 5 on the NHS pay scale. We’ll also share promotion tips to advance through the NHS pay bands and clear up any confusion about career progression within nursing.

Starting your nursing career and NHS pay bands

Working as an NHS nurse is flexible and rewarding and you can enter the profession at various levels. You’ll also often receive practical and even financial support as you progress, which makes it even more enticing. Before you start, however, you must hold an approved degree in nursing which allows you to register with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).

Nurses form the largest group of staff in the NHS and are a crucial part of not only the healthcare sector but the entire country. Some nurses begin their career in support roles which require no set of qualifications to begin with, and then go on to do a registered nursing degree which qualifies them to work as a nurse. Others apply to university to undertake their studies.

Whatever route you take, you’ll need a degree in nursing to become a nurse, as we’ve mentioned above. Fortunately, the NHS will support you financially during your training with bursaries.

Once you have a degree there are lots of levels at which you can start your career. Below are just some of the opportunities available as a newly qualified nurse:

  • Work placements and volunteering opportunities.
  • Healthcare assistant roles.
  • Cadet schemes and apprenticeships.
  • Professional training.
  • Full-time degrees.
  • Part-time degrees.
  • Foundation degrees.
  • Accelerated diplomas.

Nursing bands explained

Transitioning from a student to a newly qualified nurse at Band 5

Once you’ve completed your nursing qualification, you’ll need to register with the nursing regulatory body specific to your role. If you’re newly qualified, you’ll likely start at Band 5, where you’ll usually be trained by experienced members of staff in what’s known as a preceptorship.

As a Band 5 nurse, you’ll probably have a named mentor who will be your first point of contact for support - they’ll also be the ones to give you honest feedback about your progress and areas you can improve on.

What’s expected of a nurse in Band 5?

Organisation and accountability

In a busy healthcare environment with often unsocial hours, being organised is very important and you’ll need to prioritise your tasks at the start of each shift. It’s also important to note that clinical judgement and decision-making will take time until you gain more confidence as a nurse.

In addition, you must work within the limits of your competence because patient safety is the most important aspect of any nursing role. Because of this, make sure you come clean if you make any mistakes rather than hiding them.

Follow relevant guidelines

When it comes to acting on decisions, make sure they’re based on guidelines that you can refer back to, rather than winging it. These guidelines may be legal or medicine management-based from the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).

There are also lots of evidence-based guidance on treatment and condition management available, as well as procedures from your local trust or employer.

Practice professional development

Unlike the structured learning of your nursing course, the responsibility for continuing professional development (CPD) is yours, and it’s important to keep your e-portfolio up to date.

Moving on to Band 6

On average, it takes a nurse around 18 months to gain the relevant job experience to be considered for a Band 6 position.

Within this timeframe, you’ll prove you’re capable of the senior duties necessary to take on the responsibility of a Band 6 position; these include taking bloods from patients of all ages and carrying out, monitoring, and translating ECGs.

To improve eligibility for higher band roles, you should complete (or at least be in the process of finishing), courses designed to expand your medical knowledge. Courses available cover a vast number of subjects, but every nurse is advised to concentrate on the following:

  • Myocardial Infarction (Heart attacks).
  • CVA (Strokes).
  • COPD (Emphysema and chronic bronchitis).

Unfortunately, not all of these courses are free to join. Although your trust will entirely fund your entry to some of the essential courses, you may be required to pay for some training programs yourself. Costs range between £800 to the lower thousands, depending on the course(s) you choose.

While this may sound like a lot, the speed at which you take these courses will directly correlate to the speed of your career progression. As a result, doing more courses will likely boost the chances of a pay increase in the future.

Progressing to NHS Bands 7 and 8

To progress to Band 7 and Band 8, you must demonstrate the ability to manage a team and have a grasp of finance, which is important for many higher-band nursing roles.

Ward managers at Band 7, for example, must learn and master the running costs of maintaining a ward’s functionality. Meanwhile, matrons at Band 8 are given control over three to four individual wards or units, so they’re responsible for delegating to individual managers their budgets and objectives.

To improve your chances of reaching these senior and managerial positions, offer to take on every position of responsibility you’re confident in doing. This helps you improve your skills and gain new experience, and because you’ll work with so many people, you’ll have more who can vouch for your skillset and willingness to learn.

Are you looking to further your career as a nurse?

Search Nursing specialises in sourcing and filling nursing jobs as well as guiding NHS workers through their careers. So, if you have any questions regarding NHS Band progression, please contact a member of our recruitment team today.