31 July 2023

If the latest figures by the Recruitment and Employment Federation (REC) are anything to go by, then job seekers are beginning to feel the impacts of the cost-of-living crisis. Recording the slowest pace in job vacancies in the last 26 months, economists and insiders alike have attributed the drop in opportunities to an overall slow-down in internal recruitment, teamed with cross-industry job cuts.

Redistributing Existing Talent

The latest REC report and KPMG suggest that part of the reason vacancies have plummeted is due to businesses finding new ways to cut back, including minimising the costs of new hires wherever possible. Naturally, costs associated with bringing on new talent do not begin and end with placement fees, and instead stretch to the cost of training, new equipment, etc, etc. Many companies have chosen to save money by cutting back on their recruitment budget, instead choosing to train-up current team members to meet their evolving needs. This has not only had an impact on professionals looking for fulltime work, but has been a particularly brutal adjustment for freelance workers, as projects and tasks that would typically be assigned to outsourced talent are passed onto perm staff. It's no wonder then, that the Office of National Statistics (ONS) has seen a rise in permanent vacancies over freelance roles.

Healthcare Communications: Sector Focus

When we look at the Healthcare Communications sector through the lens of the latest KPMG report, patterns we have identified within the market are clearly mimicked across Healthcare Communications agencies. However, it is key to identify the nuances to our sector.

Efficient Resourcing

Healthcare Communications and the wider pharmaceutical market experienced a period of dramatic growth during the covid19 pandemic. In 2023 the pharmaceutical giants have cut back on spending and decreased their budgets and as such the Healthcare Communications sector has been affected. This has resulted in a number of agencies having to ensure their teams are ‘efficiently’ resourced and not ‘over’ resourced – for sure 2023 has been the recalibration year on the agency side after three years of phenomenal growth. 


There has been a small number of redundancies across the sector, with agencies dissolving dedicated teams or downsizing certain client offerings. This naturally leads to an influx of professionals seeking new roles. In turn, this contributes to a greater sense of unease within the sector, as professionals across all levels become concerned that- if they were to be made redundant- they may struggle to find a new role.

Despite this small rise of redundancies in a sector which has barely seen this in the past, vacancies in Healthcare Communications agencies are actually continuing to increase, albeit at a slower rate than previous years. This is due to some agencies seeing significant increased growth in their revenue (hence needing to bolster their teams) and partly due to candidates searching for higher paying roles to counterbalance the increased cost of living, creating a natural turnover of staff. Agencies that have given their employees a pay rise to counterbalance the increased cost of living have managed to retain a higher percentage of their employees above and beyond those that have given their ‘usual’ pay increase.

Freelance Support

Across the first half of the year, we identified a significant drop in the number of freelance roles available in the sector. Freelancing has been a staple in the Healthcare Communications and Pharmaceutical sectors for many years, so this decline has left many contractors competing for limited roles as a significant number of this talent pool looking to go back to permanent roles.
However, the KPMG report suggests there’s been an increase in temp and contract billings across the UK and especially in London over this last quarter. This suggests that, whilst the freelance market has certainly slowed through the beginning of this year, it has by no means stalled. Hopefully the amount of freelance work in the Healthcare Communications sector will grow in the same way; but realistically it will be 2024 at the earliest now before we see the impact of this.

Sector Nuances

Over the last 5 years we have also seen a steep influx of independent agencies being acquired by larger agency networks. When teamed with an influx of venture capital and private equity, agencies are under pressure to scale back and save money wherever possible, so it’s no surprise that the agencies affected have been impacted far more than the fully independent and privately owned agencies.

The Future?

With AI now right on our doorstep and having an impact on the sector already further changes are certainly afoot. Over the last twelve months we have seen a very buoyant sector adjust well to the challenges it has faced and we remain optimistic that this will remain the case over the coming year.


A slightly more positive spin on the changes in the sector is that whilst salaries are growing at a slower rate, they are continuing to increase. In fact, economic commentators have identified that starting salaries have softened with inflation- most likely due to a combination of the cost-of-living crisis and a need for hiring teams to advertise more competitive roles.

This is encouraging, as it suggests that despite some unease in the sector some agencies are still taking steps to mediate the impacts of the cost-of-living crisis on talent across all levels. By ensuring that starting salaries remain competitive and benchmarked, talent can secure fair and rewarding base packages.

How Change Impacts You

All of the changes articulated within this article are, naturally, resulting in some unease within the sector. Despite this, Healthcare Communications remains a sector which has been able to mediate the impacts of wider socio-economic changes, by embracing its inherent ability to continuously re-invent using the latest technologies, practices and strategies.

Perhaps, the more important question for the talent that we speak with on the day-to-day could be: how have the changes within your agency affected you? Have the changes left you feeling unnerved and uncertain about your current role? If you feel impacted by changes within the sector, then get in touch with our search consultants today contact us at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to set a time to talk. We offer an impartial, comparative perspective of the Healthcare Communications market as a whole, and can empower you to establish where your skill sets sit in the current market.

Whether you're actively looking for a new role, or just interested in seeing what's out there, we're here to empower you to make the best decisions moving forward.

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