Hospital Porter

The Job and What's Involved

Hospital porters play an essential role in transporting people, equipment and supplies between different departments of a hospital.

The work is likely to involve:

  • Transporting patients (who may be very ill or frail) safely and comfortably between hospital wards and other departments, such as X-ray or cardiology.
  • Using special handling techniques to move expensive, specialist medical equipment from one part of the hospital to another.
  • Transporting medical supplies, such as oxygen cylinders, and collecting and returning them when they are empty.
  • Collecting blood samples and medical specimens from wards, clinics and theatres, and taking them to laboratories.
  • Transporting general clinical waste and hazardous materials.
  • Removing patients' bodies from wards and operating theatres and taking them to the mortuary.
  • Bringing clean sheets and other items to the wards and removing dirty linen.
  • Delivering patients' meals to wards and removing used crockery and cutlery.
  • Delivering post to different departments of the hospital.
  • Delivering supplies to wards and departments.

Hospital porters use wheelchairs or trolleys to transport patients, and trolleys to transport some equipment and supplies. For some jobs, they may drive electric vehicles with trailers around the hospital site.

In some hospitals, porters may also be required to:

  • Support security staff in dealing with disturbances or intruders.
  • Enforce parking restrictions on hospital property.
  • Work on reception desks, answering phone calls, taking messages and helping visitors.

Some porters form part of a general hospital team, while others may be attached to a specific department, e.g. the pharmacy, theatre or accident and emergency. They may specialise in a particular type of duty, e.g. working in the mailroom.

Hospital porters usually work 39 hours a week. Shift work is usual, including evenings, nights, weekends and bank holidays. There are opportunities to work days only and part-time work may be available.

Porters spend most of their time indoors, although their work may take them to different hospital buildings or sites. The work is physically demanding, as it requires walking long distances, and lifting and carrying heavy equipment.

Porters usually wear a uniform provided by their employer. They wear protective clothing, such as rubber gloves, for some jobs.

Starting salaries for hospital porters in the NHS are around £12,517 a year. Porters also receive additional payments for working overtime and shifts. Those working in inner and outer London receive an additional allowance.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

There are about 10,000 hospital porters in the UK. Employers include the NHS, private hospitals and private companies that are under contract to supply porters to hospitals. There are opportunities in large and small hospitals throughout the UK.

They may be strong competition for vacancies in some areas.

Vacancies are usually advertised in Jobcentre Plus offices, local newspapers and online at www.jobs.nhs.uk. Individual NHS trust websites may also have details of vacancies.

Education and Training

There are no set entry requirements to become a hospital porter, but candidates should have a good standard of reading and writing.

As well as an interview, candidates are usually expected to pass a medical examination and, with some employers, a physical fitness test.

Apprenticeships in health and social care may be available and some NHS trusts still run cadet schemes. Such programmes can help people to find out more about being a porter and other careers in the health sector.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships, Careers Wales www.careerswales.com; and for Northern Ireland contact www.careersserviceni.com.

The Diploma in society, health and development may be relevant for this area of work.

A driving licence is required for some vacancies. Previous paid or voluntary experience in healthcare, or in another job that involves working with people, may also be an advantage.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

There is no formal training programme for hospital porters, but new recruits usually receive induction training that covers topics such as general information about the hospital, health and safety, and techniques for lifting people and objects, and transporting equipment.

New porters are usually given experience of all the different types of duties, so that they can develop a full range of skills. Further training is usually on the job, under the supervision of more experienced colleagues.

Additional training might cover subjects such as infection control or mental health awareness and is provided when required. Some employers may offer an NVQ Level 2 in support services in health care or a similar qualification.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A hospital porter should:

  • Have good communication skills.
  • Be able to work well with people from a wide range of backgrounds.
  • Be friendly, polite and helpful.
  • Have a positive outlook.
  • Be fit and have high levels of stamina.
  • Be able to work well under pressure.
  • Act calmly and quickly in emergencies.
  • Be able to follow instructions.
  • Be reliable, hardworking, honest and trustworthy.
  • Respect patient confidentiality.
  • Deal sensitively with patients and visitors who are anxious, distressed or very unwell.
  • Have a flexible attitude to work.

Your Long Term Prospects

With experience, porters may be promoted to supervisor or team leader roles. Further promotion to head porter or porter manager may be possible for those who study for supervisory or management qualifications.

Porters may be able to move into other healthcare positions, such as healthcare assistant, sterile services technician or ambulance person. Some of these jobs may require further training.

Get Further Information

NHS Careers, PO Box 2311, Bristol BS2 2ZX
Tel: 0845 606 0655
Website: www.nhscareers.nhs.uk, www.stepintothenhs.nhs.uk
and www.jobs.nhs.uk

Skills for Health, 2nd Floor,
Goldsmiths House, Broad Plain, Bristol BS2 0JP
Tel: 0117 922 1155
Website: www.skillsforhealth.org.uk

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