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How to get started as a health advisor

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If you’re interested in becoming a health advisor – or just want to find out about the benefits and learning opportunities that come with the job – this article can tell you more.

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Health Advisor
A health advisor acts as a bridge between patients and the appropriate services, using specialist tools like NHS Pathways to triage patients effectively and safely before directing them to qualified personnel.

What is a health advisor?

Health advisors have become an essential component of modern healthcare. For many, they are a critical method of accessing health advice and medical services.

The term ‘health advisor’ is relatively broad and covers a number of roles with varying levels of demand and responsibility. Health advisors are commonly part of the frontline staff, working with others in the healthcare field to support medical professionals and patients alike. 

Health advisors may:

  • Act as the first line of contact for those with health queries

  • Offer ongoing information and advice to patients

  • Channel healthcare traffic to the most appropriate services and specialists

What can you earn as a health advisor?

Typically, health advisors earn an average of around £25,000 per year, but given the broad range of roles, it’s worth looking at a breakdown of salaries. 

The average salary for NHS 111 health advisors is a little less at around £22,500. This varies depending on geographical location and the healthcare authority but is usually based on a set pay scale, meaning more inexperienced health advisors will earn less.

In the private sector, health advisors may be able to earn a little more – for example, Bupa health advisors, can expect an average of around £25,000. 

The role comes with training and the potential to move up the job ladder. Experienced senior health advisors can earn upwards of £44,000.

Health advisor pension benefits

Salary is not everything. Sometimes benefits such as a pension can make a job more attractive, particularly if you are planning for retirement.

While offerings obviously vary in the private sector, working as an NHS health advisor gains you access to the NHS Pension Scheme, which the UK government says offers “some of the most generous terms available.” 

Health advisor freelance rates

Employers do not normally seek to fill health advisor roles in the true freelance sense, but they often work with recruitment and temping agencies to fill temporary or part-time roles. Rates for a temporary NHS 111 health advisor can range from £12 to £23 per hour.

That said, those with significant experience and the appropriate qualifications may be able to transition into a freelance career in occupational health or health consultancy for private organisations.

What does a health advisor do?

Health advisors are frontline staff in the truest sense of the term. They will often act as the initial point of contact for those looking for advice about symptoms or concerns of a medical nature. 

This does not mean a health advisor needs extensive medical knowledge, a high level of training, or even a related background. Usually, the role of a health advisor is to act as a bridge between patients and the appropriate services, using specialist tools like NHS Pathways to triage patients effectively and safely before directing them to qualified personnel.

Can a health advisor work from home?

Health advisors usually do not work face-to-face with patients, meaning their role is sometimes able to be performed on a remote basis. This is dependent on the policies of the employer.

For example, following changes made during the pandemic, some NHS health advisors can now work from home via remote access to NHS Pathways and inbound phone lines, provided they have a quiet and private area to work in.

Bear in mind that remote work is not usually offered prior to the completion of any required training, so new health advisors will have to attend a designated workplace, at least initially.

How to become a health advisor

Starting out as a health advisor does not require a high level of prior experience or any niche qualifications. Most of what you’ll need to know will be taught through on-the-job training. You need only apply for an entry-level position.

Required qualifications for health advisors

Before you apply, you will need:

  • GCSEs. Maths and English GSCEs (or their equivalent) 

  • Computer skills. Candidates are expected to demonstrate their ability to use a computer. A qualification like CLAiT (or, better, a GCSE in a subject like ICT) may be desirable

  • Work experience. Employers expect potential health advisors to have spent at least some time in a public-facing role

Desirable qualifications for health advisors

The following may help your chances of being employed as a health advisor:

  • An apprenticeship. While it is unlikely that you will require a level 3 apprenticeship to start as a health advisor, you will likely complete one while employed as an ongoing requirement of your work – which could help with future jobs in the field

  • A first aid qualification. This demonstrates your abilities and interest in healthcare to employers and could help you assist patients in need of more urgent attention

Essential skills for health advisors

Qualifications are important, but gaining employment as a health advisor will also depend on certain soft skills. 

  • A calm attitude. The job will put you in contact with patients who are often distressed or angry, but you will need to keep a cool head to help everyone. Prior customer care experience may prove useful here

  • Good communication skills. As the link between members of the public and health professionals, you must take care to fully understand a patient’s needs and record that information in clear, detailed notes to ensure that the handover is as smooth as possible 

  • Judgement and prioritisation. The role of a health advisor is often to triage patients – while specialist software will usually remove the logical burden of such decisions, you may need to handle several cases at the same time and will need to determine which is most urgent

  • Professionalism. Health advisors may be required to liaise directly with senior medical personnel as well as members of the public and must maintain a professional demeanour at all times

Additional training and qualifications for health advisors

While you work as a health advisor, you may be offered the opportunity to undertake additional training or earn higher-level qualifications including level 4 or 5 apprenticeships. 

For the right person, these may be a pathway to becoming a senior health advisor, which could in turn help you transition to a management role. Alternatively, they may be a launchpad to a related career such as occupational health.

Degrees for health advisors

Health advisors do not need a degree-level education. However, earning a relevant degree may help you land a higher-paid role in health advice. 

For instance, an NHS 111 Clinical Advisor is typically someone qualified as a registered nurse, paramedic or pharmacist. Clinical advisors provide their skills to health advisors investigating unusual cases and can potentially earn upwards of £43,000 a year.

If you are planning to take a degree course, check out our guides to student finance to help keep yourself on track.

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