NHS staffing levels

The NHS Hospital and Community Health Service (HCHS) dataset gives the headcount and full-time equivalents of different staff groups, including nurses, scientists and support staff. The OECD Health Database offers the most comprehensive source of comparable statistics on health across OECD countries.

This indicator will be updated following the next NHS England monthly data release.

What are the long-term trends in NHS staff numbers?

The total number of all full-time equivalent (FTE) NHS staff decreased from 12.1 million in 2010 to 11.7 million in 2013 and returned to 12.1 million in 2015. Increases were seen in the number of midwives (up 9% from 234,000 to 255,000 in 2015) and NHS Hospital & Community Health Service (HCHS) doctors (up 8% from 1.15 million in 2010 to 1.25 million in 2015).
There were decreases in the number of Nurses & health visitors and ambulance staff over the period, although these also returned to 2010 levels in 2015.

We look at a number of these professional groups in more detail in the indicators below.

Updated November 2016

How has the number of nurses, midwives and health visitors changed?

There is annual variation in the number of nurses, midwives, and health visitors, with a trough roughly each August followed by a rise as newly qualified staff members join the workforce. A peak in numbers is then reached in the winter, followed by a decline as staff leave the workforce. There was a decrease in the average number of staff members between 2009 and 2012, but since then numbers have increased, reaching a high of 307,385 in November 2015 .

Updated November 2016

How has the number of community nurses changed?

Despite the increase in the overall numbers of qualified nursing, midwifery and health visiting staff, this has not be a pattern uniformly seen across all types of nurse groups. The number of community FTE nurses fell from 41,351 in September 2009 to 35,901 in July 2016, a decrease of just over 15% .

Updated November 2016

How have the numbers of nurses in psychiatric services changed?

There was a steady decline in the number of non-community psychiatric nurses (other psychiatry) between September 2009 and October 2016, from 25,341 to 19,592; this represents a 23% decrease. The number of community psychiatric nurses has remained steady, though has been increasing gradually since April 2016, standing at 16,350 in October 2016.

Updated January 2017.

How have the numbers of health visitors changed?

Health visitors support and educate families from pregnancy through to a child's fifth birthday. Common tasks include: offering parenting support and advice on family health, new birth visits (which include advice on feeding, weaning and dental health) and physical and developmental checks providing families with specific support on subjects such as postnatal depression.

The number of health visitors (FTE) decreased from 8,100 in September 2009 to a low of 7,375 in August 2012 and increased to a peak of 10,309 in October 2015. As of October 2016 there were 9,410 health visitors (FTE).

In October 2010, the Government made a commitment to increase the numbers of health visitors by 4,200 by 2015 but this target was missed.

Updated January 2017.

How does physician density per population compare internationally and how has it changed?

Physician density has increased since 1993 for all countries chosen for review from the OECD report (see "about this data" link for the selection process). Sweden (with 4.2 phyicians per 1,000 people in 2013) and Germany (with 4.1 physicians per 1,000 in 2014) consistently show the highest density of physicians. In 1993 the United Kingdom had the lowest physician density of the nine countries with 1.7 physicians per 1,000 people. By 2015 this had risen to 2.8 physicians per 1,000 people.

Updated January 2017.

How does nurse density per population compare internationally and how has it changed?

For the majority of countries reviewed there has been an increase in nurse density per 1,000 people of the population. The United Kingdom is the only country where there was a decrease in nurse density over the time period reviewed, with a drop from 9.0 nurses in 2000 to 7.9 nurses per 1,000 people in 2015. The United Kingdom was also below the OECD average in 2012 by 2.4 nurses per 1,000.

Updated January 2017.

How has the number of ambulance staff changed over time?

The number of ambulance staff in England has been above 17,000 since October 2009 and numbers remained relatively steady until Septemer 2015. Since then there has been a noticable rise in the number of ambulance staff to 19,406 as of October 2016.

Updated January 2017.

How has the number of managerial staff in the NHS changed over time?

Contrary to popular belief, between September 2009 and October 2016, there has been a substantial decrease in the number of managers (19% decrease) and senior managers (16% decrease) employed in English NHS. In September 2009 there were 11,892 senior managers and 25,687 managers, which have dropped to 9,785 and 20,946 respectively in October 2016.

Updated January 2017.

About this data

The NHS Hospital & Community Health Service and General Practice dataset, showing annual workforce data, reflects full-time equivalents (FTEs), as at 30 September each year. GP FTE data for 2004 and 2005 has been estimated using the results from the 1992-93 GMP Workload Survey. From 2006 onwards GP FTE has been collected and therefore may not be fully comparable with previous years. In 2006, ambulance staff data were collected under new occupation codes, and as a result totals are not directly comparable with previous years.

The March 2015 'target' of 12,292 for the total number of health visitors (FTE) in post, and the subsequent target trend, have been calculated based on the published May 2010 baseline number of 8,092 and the commitment by the government to recruit an extra 4,200 by 2015.

In the international comparison charts the countries selected from the OECD data for comparison with the UK were chosen on the basis that:

  • they are similar countries to the UK that are commonly used in comparisons with UK
  • they had data that covered a similar time period to the UK.

Apart from Canada and France, physician data refers to practising physicians, which are defined as those providing care directly to patients. For Canada and France data refer to professionally active physicians. They include practising physicians, plus other physicians working in the health sector as managers, educators, researchers, etc. (adding another 5-10% of doctors). In relation to nurses, apart from France and the United States, data refer to practising nurses, which are defined as those providing care directly to patients. In France and United States, data refer to professionally active nurses. They include practising nurses plus other nurses working in the health sector as managers, educators, researchers, etc. (adding another 5-10% of nurses).

Comments

Welsh politicians have agreed that safe staffing legislation for nurses could be “beneficial”, but have called for a series of changes to the draft law to avoid any “unintended consequences” that could occur if it were introduced.

Violleta (not verified)
(changed )

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