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National Occupational Standards Overview

Skills for Health champions the benefits of workforce learning and development based on competences / National Occupational Standards (NOS). As a Sector Skills Council, we develop and maintain NOS for healthcare occupations. Our work with NOS underpins our range of widely used tools, products and consultancy services that enable you to get the most from your workforce.

Statements of competence

NOS describe the skills, knowledge and understanding needed to undertake a particular task or job to a nationally recognised level of competence. They focus on what the person needs to be able to do, as well as what they must know and understand to work effectively. They cover the key activities undertaken within the occupation in question under all the circumstances the job holder is likely to encounter.

Each NOS contains an agreed set of knowledge and understanding and performance criteria that must be met before someone can be deemed competent. They describe the minimum standard to which an individual is expected to work in a given occupation.

Why NOS matter

NOS are tools to help individuals, organisations and training providers to improve performance. They are useful for carrying out a wide range of activities:

  • Provide managers with a tool for a wide variety of workforce design, management, succession planning and quality control
  • Offer a means to manage performance, increase productivity, identify and fill skills gaps
  • Act as a framework for recruitment, selection and induction
  • Supply a tool for personal, career and team development
  • Present a framework for training and education design, assessment and accreditation

FAQs about NOS

Are there different levels of NOS?

No, a NOS is a single function that defines the task. Some can be applied to roles at different levels and across professions in a Career Framework, whilst others describe functions that can only be undertaken by people at certain levels and in particular roles.

Are NOS compulsory?

No, but using NOS is recommended good practice by Skills for Health and the devolved UK nations.

How can employees use NOS?

As employees you can use the tools to create lists of NOS related to your role. You can create checklists to measure your performance and identify professional development and career progression needs. You can use NOS to accumulate evidence towards a qualification and to increase your mobility within the health and social care sector.

What are NOS based qualifications?

Competences/NOS are the building blocks used to inform qualification units. These units are then used to create flexible qualifications which support individuals to demonstrate occupational competence in a role. Learners are assessed on their ability to perform and demonstrate competence in the workplace. The units within the qualifications can also be used for Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and career progression. These qualifications are often also a major component of Apprenticeships.

Awarding Organisations provide learners with qualification certificates and keep all the information in relation to registered training and assessment centres that provide the qualifications. For more information on the Awarding Organisations visit

What are the benefits of NOS based qualifications?

  • Learner: a variety of achievements and pathways that lead to a flexible qualification which allows for career development and progression. The use of common units across appropriate qualifications ensures learners do not have to repeat the same learning and are able to transfer unit credits
  • Professions: develops competent healthcare support roles and a step onto and up the career framework
  • Employers: a tool to support staff in developing their skills and knowledge. They ensure that staff are qualified for the job they are doing and can deliver safe and effective high quality healthcare
  • Training/education providers: a tool to identify learning and skills needs or gaps in provision. They act as a basis for units of learning within qualifications, making programmes more relevant to employers’ needs and providing clear goals for structured learning.

How are NOS developed?

Skills for Health has lead responsibility for developing NOS for the health sector. We work collaboratively with the relevant stakeholders, practitioners and experts to write the competences. This work is usually carried out as a project with a Steering Group, Working Group and Project Executive Group in place to support progress.

NOS have been agreed through the internal Skills for Health process and have to meet the quality criteria set down by the UK NOS Panel, who are responsible for the approval of all NOS.

How are they kept up to date?

NOS are reviewed when there is sufficient evidence of the need for change. This might be when a NOS no longer reflects current practice, there is a change in legislation or it becomes part of a wider qualification review. Find out about our NOS in development.

Who owns the copyright to Health NOS?

Skills for Health own and hold the copyright.

We manage the UK’s National Occupational Standards for health. For a better skilled, more productive workforce please contact


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