HNC Healthcare Practice

Higher National Qualifications provide practical skills and theoretical knowledge that meet the needs of employers. The HNC in Healthcare Practice (SCQF level 7) is aimed at providing a specific qualification for those wishing to enter the NHS workforce at career framework (CF) level 3 of the NHS CF in clinical roles. The HNC Healthcare Practice will provide the skills and knowledge demanded in a modern working environment.

The HNC has been designed to meet the requirements of the CF level 3 roles in clinical areas. The HNC has nine mandatory units, covering a set of skills and competences across all potential occupational areas, along with team working and transferable skills.

Successful completion of the HNC meets the requirement for entry into a number of undergraduate programmes. As well as entering employment at CF level 3, the HNC will allow candidates to articulate with advanced standing to Year 2 of designated degree programmes in healthcare practice.

This qualification covers areas such as Safe Working Practice for Care, Therapeutic Relationships, and understanding behaviour. It also covers clinical skills for practitioners, and the human body in health and illness, and explores mental health.

This qualification is available through colleges and training providers. Typically, an HNC takes one year to complete.

This subject will not have alternative assessment guidance for session 2023-24. You should refer to the Group Award/Unit specifications for detailed delivery and assessment information. For general support on delivery and assessment see the HNVQ assessment guidance 2023-24.

Higher National qualifications have been developed by SQA in partnership with colleges, universities and industry ¿ so employers recognise that they provide sound evidence of ability.

The unit-based structure supports flexibility. A unit is typically 40 hours of timetabled learning.

All units in this qualification are mandatory.

This HN provides progression routes to further study (see Progression).

The HNC is suitable for a wide range of candidates including:

  • school leavers
  • adult returners to education
  • individuals in employment who wish to enhance their career prospects
  • people who wish to start their own business


As with all SQA qualifications, entry is at the discretion of the centre. Examples of formal entry qualifications include:

  • appropriate groupings of National Units
  • any two National Qualifications at Higher, together with three Standard Grade passes at 3 or above
  • an SVQ at Level 2 or 3 in a relevant area
  • relevant work experience

Different combinations of relevant National Qualifications, vocational qualifications and equivalent qualifications from other awarding bodies may also be acceptable.

Progression and employment

The HNC Healthcare Practice continues the healthcare based articulation pathways put in place with the HNC Care & Administrative Practice. Increasing numbers of candidates have been articulating to year 2 of the undergraduate nursing programmes in Scottish universities. However, it must be emphasised that this is not a guaranteed articulation route, it depends on candidates meeting the criteria for each individual HEI.

Specific Delivery Requirements

Centres already offering HNC Care and Administrative Practice will receive desktop approval for the new HNC Healthcare Practice.

Centres interested in offering this qualification must come forward for approval, and should contact SQA¿s Business Development Team for guidance.

Assessors and verifiers must be able to meet SQA¿s general requirements for technical/occupational competence as outlined in the Systems and Qualification Approval Guide. The specific delivery requirements are set out in the Group Award Specification (arrangements document).

Each individual unit specification gives detailed information on the Evidence Requirements and approaches to assessment for each unit.

Ongoing course assessment will apply.

Group Award code: GR4N 15 (96 SCQF credit points)

HNC Healthcare Practice at SCQF level 7 consists of 9 mandatory Units (96 SCQF credit points).