Exciting opportunities in the health sector are waiting for IT professionals looking for a new challenge, and has the added attraction of offering potentially recession-proof career paths. Presently, there is huge demand for a range of IT skills across the health sector, both in the NHS and the private sector. There are about 25,000 people working in what might be broadly termed health informatics in England alone. These people collect, manage and use information to support the delivery of healthcare and to promote health and wellbeing. The opportunities can be availed by professionals at all the levels. A survey conducted by the Association of ICT Professionals in Health and Social Care (Assist) last year found a 16 per cent vacancy rate for clinical informatics staff, while at the senior level vacancy rates were six per cent. There are opportunities for software designers, helpdesk technicians, health records managers, data analysts and directors of IT, among others.
The reasons for these high demands in the health sector have emerged as the health informatics is playing an increasingly important role in modernising the health service. This in turn is generating more opportunities for people with the relevant data management and system support skills. In an increasingly information-driven sector, informatics professionals have an essential part to play in driving up the quality of healthcare and ensuring that citizens receive a service fit for the 21st century. Historically, salary structure has been an issue that has deterred a few from entering the healthcare sector, but in recent years the gap between public- and private-sector salaries has closed considerably. And as the recession continues to bite and job insecurity grows, more private-sector employees are looking to move to the relative safety of the public sector and the NHS in particular. In addition, job stability, attractive pension options and flexible working practices such as job sharing, which have a strong appeal for those with young families. Softer skills, such as business analysis, project management, stakeholder relationship management and change management are also valuable and easily transferable. And in an evolving NHS with increasingly tighter budgets, these soft skills are likely to be in even higher demand.