What is NHS Cadets?

I'm now applying to become a paramedic at university with the skills I have learnt.

Minali, NHS Cadet

NHS Cadets is a youth programme, created in partnership with the NHS. The programme provides opportunities to explore roles in healthcare volunteering for young people aged 14-18 (up to 25 for young people with a disability and/or special educational needs). It is aimed at young people from underserved communities, and those underrepresented in the NHS and St John Ambulance.

We aim to reach a diverse range of young people, who experience barriers in entering health volunteering or a healthcare career.  For some young people, this programme may be the first time they have considered a future in healthcare, and we aim to support them as they take their first steps.

The NHS Cadets Programme is run by St John Ambulance in partnership with your local NHS trust or healthcare provider. It is split into two programmes: a Foundation Pathway for young people (aged 14 to 16), and an Advanced Pathway (ages 16 to 18). 

Benefits for young people

The programme boosts young people's confidence and improves group communication skills. National Council for Voluntary Organisations' (NCVO) report in 2021 demonstrated, that by the end of the Foundation Pathway, 78% of NHS Cadets were either very confident or quite confident speaking in front of a group.  

New friendships, personal development, and extra opportunities are all highly valued on the programme, and there are so many benefits to becoming an NHS Cadet.

Here are some of them:


The programme is a personal journey for a Cadet, and they will build a comprehensive portfolio over the course of the pathway. Young people will log their skills, reflect on their learning, and capture all their achievements in one place. It is an engaging tool to help track progress and share with future employers or further education providers. 





Duke of Edinburgh


St John Ambulance takes child protection extremely seriously and we have comprehensive procedures in place which apply to all activities within the organisation. 

  • We ensure that Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS, formerly CRB) checks are made, references taken up and a declaration signed by every applicant before they are allowed to work with or supervise children in St John Ambulance.

  • We train all our adults in best practice and take any measures required to strengthen and improve existing practice. We provide support visits which monitor and audit units to make sure they are in line with current practice. These are done through announced and unannounced visits to ensure units are working within policy.

  • We believe that every young person should have the opportunity to make a real difference in their community, to speak out on what matters to them and to help others in need of support and development.

  • We teach our young people about self-protection. We make all our young people aware of what they should and should not expect from the adults they interact with. We make sure parents, children and young people know how to voice their concerns and get help if they are unhappy or worried about anything.

The organisation regularly reviews and updates the Safeguarding Policy to provide fresh guidance on legislative changes, the advances in technology and increased expectations of society. Keeping young people safe will always be of paramount importance to us. All members who work with children must follow the procedures laid out in our Safeguarding Policy. The organisation will take action against anyone not following these principles.

Read our Safeguard Policy here>

Why is our programme popular with Cadets?

Here are some of the top reasons they gave us, from NCVO's July 2021 report:

  • They found sessions fun or exciting
  • They learned new skills from sessions
  • They felt positive about their youth leaders
  • They enjoyed getting to know other Cadets

Hear from our partners

We’re delighted at Barts Health to work in partnership with St John Ambulance to grow and support NHS Cadets, who are valued members of our local communities, key influencers as well as potential future members of the NHS workforce.

Kath Evans, Director of Children's Nursing, Barts NHS Trust