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Widening Access and Participation (WAP)









We are committed to putting in place a healthcare workforce which is representative of the communities we serve, with particular focus on widening access for those who are underrepresented within our existing workforce, or from lower socioeconomic and deprived areas and those from minoritized backgrounds so that we can better understand the needs of our patients and provide more effective care.  

Health Education England’s commitment to ensure WAP enhances social mobility and life chances echoes that which the pandemic has highlighted and exacerbated with existing inequalities in health and across many other facets of our society. 

Historically, individuals taking up work experience, apprenticeships and volunteering opportunities have typically come from more advantaged communities - a small section of the overall population. By ensuring we are making a greater number of people aware of the opportunities available is not only good for those individuals and service users, health and care organisations will also benefit from a wider and more diverse talent pool from which they can fill vacancies and gaps in the workforce.     

Our vision for widening access and participation captures pre and post pandemic intelligence and expresses how, by nurturing a home-grown workforce WAP can help tackle health inequalities and improve opportunities for ALL and not just a select few and in order to support this, we must increase the number of pre-employment opportunities generally and ensure they are distributed equally among our communities. 

Evidence shows the inherent and reciprocal link between health and work and that without increased commitment at all levels, people in more deprived areas will continue to spend more of their lives in ill health than those in the least deprived areas. By being in the right career with fair pay and conditions improves people’s overall physical and mental health and supports quality of life and that being in good health enables people to work, thus creating a positive and virtuous cycle leading to a reduction in health inequalities.  

Preparation for Work  

The term 'preparation for work' describes workforce pipeline activities aimed at moving people into education, training, and employment such as, work related learning, work experience and employability programmes visit here.

Work Experience and Work-Related Learning

To read about the various initiatives put in place by the team to support and enable employing organisations to offer work experience and work-related learning activities and in the process encourage those in currently underrepresented groups to take up a career in health and care, visit here

Access to Medicine and the Professions

To find out how HEE is working in partnership with a variety of organisations to support students from disadvantaged backgrounds to successfully apply to medical school, degree-level healthcare programmes and or apprenticeships, visit here

Pre-Employment Management Platform Website Update  

Following the publication of, ‘’The Future of Healthcare Work Experience Discovery Report’’  and the implementation of a number of recommendations, the Widening Access and Participation team at HEE has continued to consult with partners and stakeholders around the potential for Option A, a national platform which shows the opportunities available to the general public. Through this consultation, research into existing models of practice, and analysis of wider needs, including equity of access to resources and digital technology, HEE has taken the decision to expand the scope of the Option A recommendation to be inclusive of pre-employment activities as well as a young person facing learning management system.  

Due to the size of the proposed digital solution and change in scope, HEE now requires a further and more specific Discovery process and detailed analysis of user need, user journey mapping, and user story requirements. The Discovery is due to commence in September 2022. HEE will continue to update its partners through the National Work Experience Network, HEE regional leads and the Talent for Care newsletter.  

If you would like to know more about the National Pre-Employment Platform, please contact the Widening Access and Participation team at HEE. 

The Prince’s Trust Health and Social Care Programme

HEE is working in partnership with Princes Trust and the Department for Health and Social Care to support 10,000 young people into sustained careers within the health and social care sector over 4 years, including those from lower income backgrounds or those affected by long term unemployment.

The programme includes two pre-employment programmes “Get Into” and “Get Started” and mentoring support. These are tailored to fulfil the workforce needs of each organisation and give young people (aged 16-30) a real understanding of the sector and access to a wide variety of entry-level roles and apprenticeships in the NHS and social care.

Get Into Programme

This in-depth programme focuses on increasing young people's chances of securing employment within the sector. “Get Into” lasts between four to six weeks and is a combination of class-based learning and hands-on work placements giving young people a real insight into what working in a health and social care environment is like and a clear understanding of the career pathways that are available.

Get started Programme

A two-to-three-day intensive programme combining, employability skills training and multiple organisation interviews, delivered by industry experts linked to live sector job opportunities.

Get Started is a 2–3 day course, designed for those who feel ready to start working now. The young people will learn about the health and social care sector including the types of roles available, career options and receive job interview preparation support.


Young people are matched to an online professional mentor for up to six months who will support them as they prepare for and start employment.

If you are a young person who would like to find out more visit: https://www.princes-trust.org.uk/help-for-young-people/programmes/health-and-social-care-hub/our-health-and-social-care-courses

If you are an employer and would like to find out more visit: https://www.nhsemployers.org/articles/working-princes-trust


HEE has developed a Widening Participation Directory which pulls together information, guidance and resources on the current pre-employment activity offer  and careers initiatives. 

This directory shows what is currently available to enable individuals and organisations to choose which initiative best suits their needs.  

The Preparation for Work Directory will be updated on a monthly basis as and when new information becomes available and can be viewed here . If you have any information you think would be suitable for the directory, please email talentforcare@hee.nhs.uk . 

Step into Work (SIW) is an off-the-shelf employability programme for adults aged 19+ who are in receipt of working age benefits.  It was originally co-designed with trusts in the North West and the Department for Work and Pensions, being implemented in several trusts across the North West region.  

Step into Work aims to support participants to develop employability skills and qualities in order to secure health and social care roles, through a blended approach of work placements and training which takes place over a fixed period of time (between 6-12 weeks).   

Following the success of the pilot in the North East, HEE went on to support a further roll out with allocations of funding to support the infrastructure needed to implement this programme nationally.  Ten trusts (or collaborations) were awarded funding in 2019 to commence this programme of work. 

Using SIW as a pre employment model, trusts (or collaborations) can solve workforce challenges for entry level roles, in areas such as facilities, estates, HCA and administration creatively and effectively.   HEE offers a three funding model, reducing funding year on year.   

In its first year (extended by 6 months due to Covid-19) SIW engaged with 442 adults with a conversion rate of 40% into positive destinations including apprenticeships, volunteering or further educational programmes of study.  This conversion rate is higher than the DWP average, for employment programmes of this kind. 

HEE will go out to tender on an annual basis, inviting trusts (or collaborations) to bid for national funding.  Requirements including working with a minimum number of participants on an annual basis, the submission of regular highlight reports, case studies and attendance at quarterly Delivery Group Meetings. A further ten trusts (or collaborations) will be awarded three year funding to develop, deliver and evaluate SIW programmes in 2021/2022.   

Please find case studies and SIW toolkit below: 


According to nationwide Government research by the Youth Violence Commission the number of young people involved in violent attacks has risen sharply in the last decade, driven by inequality in education, housing and employment, and is more prevalent in areas of multiple deprivation.  

As demonstrated in the Youth Violence Commission report, being at risk of violence is inextricably linked with adverse childhood experiences: poverty, domestic violence, mental health issues and learning disabilities, involvement in the criminal justice system, school exclusion and unemployment.   

The report also states that ‘Many young people are also faced with employment markets that offer little other than insecure, fixed-term and badly paid jobs, and are living in communities in which flawed drug policies facilitate thriving illicit drug markets, leaving young people vulnerable to coercion and exploitation’.  

During the pandemic all these problems have intensified, and their legacy will sadly continue.  

HEE has supported a pilot delivered by Street Doctors in the East of England to deliver a peer mentoring project aimed at young people residing in areas of high youth violence. Alongside delivering life saving skills and emergency first aid training, Street Doctors also deliver careers, advice and guidance to support young people to increase their knowledge and understanding of health and social care careers.  A small cohort from this group will go on to train as Peer Mentors, gaining additional skills, knowledge, and confidence to become leaders in their communities, capable of stepping forward to counter the impact of violence themselves.