Access to HE - the Health Professions pathway

Healthcare is a popular career choice in the United Kingdom.

And health professionals are in high demand both in the UK and worldwide.

Whether you want to become a nurse, a midwife or train as an allied health professional, you can take this course option (or 'pathway'), go to university, and get a qualification that entitles you to enter your chosen career.

How it works

It can take from nine months to a year to complete The Access to Higher Education course - but you can take up to five years if you need.

Once you’ve completed the course, you can apply to do a three or four-year BSc degree at university, in nursing, midwifery or one of the allied health professions. 

You study this course entirely by distance learning, with the help of your tutor and your personal mentor. We also encourage you to seek out some hands-on experience in a care setting. This could be a care home, a hospice, a hospital or a community healthcare centre, or any number of other care facilities around the country. Our course advisors will give you advice about this.

On the course you'll study a variety of subjects, from the straightforwardly scientific like the human reproductive system to nutrition, psychology and stress management.

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The careers you could choose from

Let's look at the range of professions you can choose from.

  • Nursing

    Although the Access to Higher Education course is the same for all nurses, you ought to decide which type of nursing you want to practise before applying to a university. In the UK there are four main streams of nursing:

    • Adult nursing

      This is the most common form of nursing and has many different specialisms. You work with adults of all ages, some seriously ill, some terminal and some recovering. You can work in a hospital, a hospice or the community. You might work in a GP’s surgery, a walk-in health centre or a care home. You might even work at the prison service, the police, the private sector or the voluntary sector.

      You will work in multidisciplinary teams that will include a variety of professionals - doctors, radiographers, emergency personnel, surgeons, occupational therapists, healthcare assistants, etc.

      Once you’ve qualified as an adult nurse, you might specialise in one of various disciplines, such as care of the elderly, intensive care, operating theatre nursing, cancer nurse, public health or clinical research.

    • Children’s nursing

      You specialise in caring for children, from premature and sick new-borns to children affected by cancer or other serious diseases, to child accident victims. You might work in a hospital, in a premature birth unit as a neonatal nurse, in a children’s hospice, in a children’s home or in the community.

      You will form teams with other professionals, including paediatric doctors, social workers, child psychologists, and new-born hearing screeners.

    • Learning disability nursing

      You specialise in the care of children and adults with learning disabilities. You help improve or maintain a person’s physical and mental health, reduce barriers to an independent life and support their desire for a rewarding life.

      You might work in family homes, in general or specialised schools, in workplaces, in residential or community centres, in hospitals, in mental health units and in prisons.

    • Mental health nursing

      You care for people with mental health conditions, helping them recover from an acute episode and manage their condition for a more fulfilling life. In a hospital, you might work in a psychiatric intensive care unit, a psychiatric unit, an outpatient clinic or a specialist eating disorders unit. In the community, you could work in a GP surgery, a community health care centre, a residential centre, a specialised addictions centre, a prison or someone’s home.

  • Midwifery

    A midwife specialises in the care and support of pregnant women, and in assisting them to give birth, either alone or under the supervision of a doctor.

    You might work in the maternity ward of a hospital, a neonatal ward, a specialised clinic, a GP surgery, or in people’s homes. Midwives are as much concerned with ante-natal care as with the birth itself and the post-natal care of the mother.

    There are several paths to becoming a midwife. Most commonly, you will study for a BSc, or do an MSc in midwifery after your nursing degree. Our course will open the door for you to apply to university to study an undergraduate degree in midwifery.

  • Allied Health Professions

    This is a wide field, which includes professions such as physiotherapy, the science of nutrition, or speech therapy. You could work in psychotherapy, occupational therapy, radiography or podiatry.

    The Access to Higher Education for Health Professionals will enable you to study some of these at university level, while others fall under the remit of different Access to Higher Education pathways.

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A nurse's view

"The people on my nursing degree who'd done Access to HE got through the course more easily.

"They were more familiar with healthcare maths and how to write essays. They were better prepared.

"I'd done A levels but it wasn't the same."

- Emily Packenham