Guide to taking on an apprentice

With the Government’s growing emphasis on improving the number and quality of apprentices, now is an ideal time for GP practices to take advantage of the clinical and administrative apprenticeship schemes.

As well as offering benefits such as boosting skills and productivity, apprenticeships are a cost effective way to attract and retain staff. Government funding is available to help cover training costs and, as part of the initiative to encourage more apprentices into GP practice, Health Education England – West Midlands is currently offering £500 towards the cost of training each apprentice. You may also be entitled to a grant of £1,500 if you haven’t taken on an apprentice in the last 12 months and from April 2016, employers will no longer have to pay national insurance contributions for any apprentice under the age of 25.

What’s involved?

Apprentices combine working with studying in order to gain a qualification (GCSE equivalent up to degree level) and valuable professional skills. As well as taking on someone new, apprenticeships can be used to improve the skills of current employees.

Apprentices must be

  • aged 16 and over
  • paid at least the minimum wage
  • employed for a minimum of 30 hours per week

There are a wide range of clinical and non-clinical apprenticeships, which can be a great way to fill a particular need in your practice. Non-clinical roles can help build skills in areas such as administration, customer service, finance and IT for example. While clinical apprentices can be trained to support doctors and nurses with routine medical checks such as taking blood pressure, carrying out new patient checks and wound care.

As well as your practice providing on-the-job training, apprentices will study with a training provider of your choice. You can find out more about training providers here.

How do we go about taking on an apprentice?

There are many different organisations which can provide information, advice and support with taking on an apprentice. You can find out more about these in our resources and tools section.

As a first step, visit the National Apprenticeship Service’ website for more information about apprenticeships in England.

For specific advice and support for healthcare employers, you can contact the National Skills Academy which provides free advice and guidance on all aspects of employing apprentices, including advice on funding, grants and training providers. There is also local support through their Excellence Coordinators as well as a number of HEE funded Community Education Provider Networks, which will have increasing responsibility for engaging with NHS primary care community providers around workforce planning, education and training.

If SWGP member practices would like to find out more about apprenticeships, including how the federation can support you with this, please email: or call: 01926 458368

What are the benefits?

There are all sorts of potential benefits to taking on an apprentice. According to studies by the British Chambers of Commerce and the Centre for Economic and Business Research, employers feel apprentices help to:

  • build skills within their organisation
  • reduce staff turnover
  • cut recruitment costs
  • generate a more motivated workforce
  • increase productivity

In General Practice, there are many examples of apprentices making a real difference. Several of our SWGP member practices have experience of employing apprentices and are very positive about the benefits they bring to their practice. To find out more, read our case studies below.

Case studies:

Practice Manager, Rother House Medical Centre 

Practice Manager, Tom Ganner, explains how recruiting an apprentice can be quicker and easier than conventional recruitment and talks about the positive impact apprentices have made to their practice. Read more…

Former apprentice, Rother House Medical Centre

A Customer Service apprenticeship with Rother House Medical Centre, was a brilliant learning experience for Verity Copeland who now works as a permanent member of the team. Read more…

Practice Manager, Waterside Medical Centre

Tim Morris talks about the tangible difference apprentices can make, having seen big improvements in the take-up of health checks and engagement with patients in their practice. Read more…

Former apprentice, Waterside Medical Centre

Kate Young now works full time at the Waterside Medical Centre following a successful apprenticeship which gave her the opportunity to build her skills as well as a real enthusiasm for working in general practice. Read more…


Read our myth-busters page to find out how some of the common misconceptions about apprenticeships might be holding you back unnecessarily.

There are also video case studies available on the National Skills Academy website to show how primary care providers are using apprenticeships to enhance service delivery and provide great patient care.