The National Health Service's IT investment programme is opening up new opportunities for IT professionals in the private healthcare industry.
Private healthcare providers are stepping up recruitment of IT staff as they invest in systems that will link into new NHS IT systems designed to improve access to medical records, process bookings and speed communications between medical specialists.
Private healthcare provider Bupa plans to recruit 50 or 60 permanent IT staff this year, as it gets to grips with the NHS reforms.
"Private healthcare providers need technology to deliver their business strategies. With the NHS and private sectors working together, we have to link to the NHS when they implement their IT programme," said Linda Gillian, head of human resources for information systems at Bupa.
The company plans to recruit IT professionals with a range of skills, including system design, systems architects, testing specialists and back-office operators.
"What we look for are people that can come in and make an impact. They are brave and challenging, and really understand the business drivers," said Gillian. "They need lots of ideas, be willing to thrive in a fast moving environment. They need to be prepared to stand up and ask difficult questions. A 'can do' attitude is more important than great technical skills."
The private sector can move more quickly than the NHS, as projects are not restricted by the same levels of bureaucracy, said Bupa. Average salary levels are also higher.
Bupa offers its IT staff a six-monthly performance review, which allows staff to discuss their career plans and training needs with their managers and career development consultants. This provides people with more flexible options than the rigid career structures of the past, Bupa said.
"Years ago you would come in as a junior technician, and if you had the right customer-facing skills, you could become a business analyst or a project manager. Those more technical would go down a systems architect route. That is the old-fashioned way of doing things," said Gillian.
Now it is possible for a graduate with no programming knowledge to join the organisation and, providing they have the right skills and drive, work their way up to become a project manager, she said.