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Historical workforce statistics in lead-up to NHS70

Historical workforce statistics in lead-up to NHS70 birthday milestone

NHS Digital must be quoted as the source of these figures

Factsheet – NHS staff numbers from 1949

A glimpse into NHS history has been revealed by NHS Digital to mark the 70th birthday of the health service.

We hold statistics on the NHS workforce from 1949, which includes the numbers of hospital doctors, nurses and dental staff – the earliest available, following the founding of the service in 1948.

These figures are reused with the permission of the Department of Health and Social Care.

Data on GPs is available from 1963 and includes a breakdown by gender.

The statistics show how the NHS workforce has grown and evolved over the past seven decades:

  • In 1949, there were 11,735 full time equivalent hospital doctors in England and Wales, including 3,488 consultants.

By 2018 there were 109,509 full time equivalent medical and dental staff, including 46,297 consultants, in England.

  • In 1949, there were 68,013 registered nurses in hospitals in England and Wales.
    In 2018, that number stood at 320,422 (headcount).
  • There were 5,637 midwifery staff in 1949. By 2018 there were 26,519 (headcount).
  • In 1963 there were 22,159 GPs in England and Wales, 19,951 of whom were male and 2,208 of whom were female.
    In 2018 there were 41,693 GPs, 17,366 male and 21,736 female (headcount).


Additional historic data is available on request – contact or 0300 30 33 888

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Notes to editors

  1. NHS Digital is the national information and technology partner of the health and care system.  Our team of information analysis, technology and project management experts create, deliver and manage the crucial digital systems, services, products and standards upon which health and care professionals depend.  During the 2017/18 financial year, NHS Digital published 275 statistical reports. Our vision is to harness the power of information and technology to make health and care better.
  2. Data from 1949 is from the 1970 Health and Personal Services Statistics for England (HPSS).
  3. For media enquiries please contact or telephone 0300 30 33 888.

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Last edited: 3 September 2018 3:01 pm