NHS Knowledge – How Much is Enough?

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Author: Andrew Vincent

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Date: May 18, 2020

 One way or another you are going to get asked questions that at least relate to the wider NHS and what’s happening to it. However, it’s also a big topic and that raises the question of just how much should you do in preparation?

Because it’s such a big topic it’s important to realise that you can’t be expected to know everything. However, that doesn’t make learning and preparation redundant, so much as elevate the importance of having some guidance. We include a separate learning package on just this but even then it is important to have a plan.  NHS knowledge shouldn’t be an overwhelming focus but it is a crucial component of comprehensive preparation. Let’s look at how it plays out…

It is quite rare today to be asked questions directly about the NHS and its structure, unless there has been a major incident or policy change that will affect services and in which case you may well be asked for your view on it. We’d put this into a category of what’s current and on people’s minds, rather than a wider general knowledge. But… very few immediate big issues are disconnected from the structure and direction of travel and this is where the wider knowledge comes in. If you don’t know how something fits in, you can easily mess up the answer.

There’s a great deal going on in healthcare and although we hear phrases like ‘constant change’ frequently, the reality has been a consistent direction of travel for the past 20+ years and it is important to understand it and what drives it. Although the questions will relate to what’s happening today and especially what’s bothering people, that all links in to that direction of travel.

On your panel, you will have a mixture of medical and on-medical staff. They all carry weight, although some more than others. The candidate that is going to get appointed is the one that they AGREE on and that is most likely to happen when the answers the candidate gives resonate with all of them as much as is possible. More importantly, you don’t want to turn off certain people and that is easy to do. Why? As a clinical professional, your perspective on things will be different to those in say managerial positions. The panel, individually, will want to understand how you think and whether you will be helpful or a hindrance to the difficulties they are wrestling with. If we find one recurrent problem in this area it is that when candidates do not engage in the right type of preparation on the NHS and its issues, they form shallow and often quite polarised points of view. The way to appeal to multiple and very different members of the panel is to appreciate the issues at play depending on where you sit. That’s tough to work out and formulate a sensible answer in the few seconds you get between question and the words needing to flow. Familiarity with the issues, especially in a manner that highlights the conflicts and perspectives, is vital to a flexible mind and wider appeal.

In summary, it’s not the depth of knowledge that puts you in a winning position (it can help though…) so much as how it influences your thinking, your balance and their perceptions of you. Will you be an asset in difficult circumstances or a hindrance in already challenging times. They have enough hinderers… they are looking for assets and that’s why we provide such comprehensive learning in this arena but also why the guidance that goes with it is so important.

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