Empowering Digital Transformation graduates: The Journey of Graduates into Health

April 3, 2024


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The Health Innovation Network (HIN) South London has been running the flagship Graduates into Health programme since 2018. Over the past six years the programme has recruited graduates and early careers professionals from across the UK and internationally to fill digital, data and technology roles throughout England.

The programme, funded by NHS England, closed on 31 March 2024. In this co-authored blog we hear from Head of Service Louise Brennan, Engagement Lead Project Manager Karniya Yoganathan and Pastoral Support Lead Charlotte Gallagher as they reflect on the successes of the programme sourcing new talent to drive innovation in healthcare.


In my position as the Head of Service for the Graduates into Health programme, I’ve led a journey of significant transformation over the past six years. Our main aim has been to pioneer a programme that not only meets the growing digital needs of the NHS but also nurtures fresh talent to drive innovation in healthcare.

Our journey began in 2018 with a vision to bridge the gap between the increasing demand for digital skills in healthcare and the availability of skilled professionals within the NHS. Starting at a local level, we worked to expand our initiative into a national programme, supporting over 240 graduates in securing vital roles in Digital, Data, and Technology (DDaT) within the NHS.

One of my proudest achievements has been the establishment of the first-ever graduate DDaT programme within the NHS. Prior to this, similar programmes were either found in the private sector or delivered fast-track graduates into leadership positions. Recognising the crucial need for digital expertise in middle-management public healthcare, we embarked on a mission to fill this gap.

Our programme not only addressed a critical need but also gained  support from NHS managers seeking to enhance their teams with fresh talent. Through careful recruitment and rigorous training, our graduates demonstrated their skills, earning praise for their proficiency and adaptability. This success led to repeat requests from managers, solidifying our programme’s reputation as a valuable asset to NHS organisations across the country.

Our expansion from London to regions nationwide highlights the scalability and impact of our initiative. By aligning with key NHS priorities around digital transformation and workforce planning, such as the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan, we’ve contributed to modernising healthcare delivery and improving patient outcomes.

Ultimately, the impact of our programme is seen in the tangible improvements observed in organisations undergoing digital transformation. By empowering a new generation of digital graduates, we’ve not only addressed immediate workforce needs but also laid the groundwork for a more resilient and innovative NHS ready to meet the evolving challenges of healthcare delivery in the digital age.

“We often struggled to get suitable candidates and so a typical recruitment would take far longer than 6-8 weeks because we’d have to go out again and again. We recruited for one position through the Graduates into Health programme and were so impressed with the quality of the candidates that we ended up taking two!”NHS Informatics Merseyside Software Developer Manager


Working as the Engagement Lead Project Manager for the Graduates into Health programme, I supported the overall programme delivery and oversaw tasks including trust engagement, pastoral care and mentorship activities. As the programme nears its end, I take pride in reflecting on our achievements.

A significant aspect of our success lies in our ability to achieve diversity and retention goals. The Graduates into Health programme has prioritised inclusivity, with 57 per cent of participants coming from ethnic minority backgrounds and 44 per cent identifying as female. This commitment to diversity has contributed to our impressive 91 per cent retention rate, showing that the programme effectively supports career advancement within the NHS.

One notable accomplishment is our contribution to bridging the NHS’s skills gap which was particularly evident in our efforts in to recruit in rural areas. An example of this was our successful recruitment of twelve Band 6 configuration analyst graduates to contribute their skills to the implementation of North Devon Health Care Trust’s ‘My Care’ Epic Electronic Patient Record Programme. Positive feedback from these placements highlights the effectiveness of our thorough recruitment processes, which assessed graduates’ technical abilities through various tests.

I take great pride in the gender diversity of our programme participants. By empowering women from diverse backgrounds, including those returning to work, the Graduates into Health programme aligns with the NHS’s commitment to fostering an inclusive and gender-equal workforce. This diversity enriches the healthcare sector by bringing different perspectives and skills to the table, ultimately improving patient-centred care delivery.

As we near the end of this programme, I want to express how the Graduates into Health programme has not only provided valuable career opportunities for graduates but has also addressed important skill shortages and diversity issues within the NHS.


In my position I had the privilege of providing individual pastoral support to 130 graduates over the past year as they transition into DDaT roles within the NHS. Our focus has been on providing tailored support to help these individuals navigate the complexities of starting their careers in healthcare.

Central to my responsibilities has been offering personalised guidance to graduates, particularly concerning their well-being and professional development. Through regular conversations, I’ve witnessed their progress and celebrated their achievements as they overcome challenges and take steps forward in their careers.

Embracing a graduate-centred approach, I’ve actively sought feedback from graduates, leading to the implementation of various support mechanisms such as newsletters and networking events. The aim was to keep graduates informed about opportunities within the NHS and foster a sense of community among them.

Feedback from graduates highlights the significance of our support in helping them secure positions within the NHS, even in the face of competition from the private sector. My role has also involved identifying and addressing individual barriers to career advancement, whether they be related to training, working within the NHS, or personal well-being.

As the Graduates into Health programme draws to a close, I’m gratified by the impact our efforts have had in nurturing the talents of these graduates and contributing to the strength of the healthcare workforce. It’s been a fulfilling journey, and I’m thankful for the opportunity to have played a part in their growth and success.

Find out more on the Graduates into Health programme’s success below.