Skip to main content
Creating a new NHS England: Health Education England, NHS Digital and NHS England have merged. More about the merger.


Narrowing of NHS gender divide but men still the majority in senior roles

The proportion of NHS doctors who are women has grown every year since 2009, analysis of NHS workforce statistics by NHS Digital for International Women's Day shows.

The proportion of NHS doctors2 who are women has grown every year since 2009,3 analysis of NHS workforce statistics by NHS Digital for International Women's Day shows.

But the figures show that, despite women making up over three quarters of all NHS staff, they are still in the minority in senior roles.4

37 per cent of all senior roles are now held by women compared with 31 per cent in 2009. 36 per cent of consultants are now women compared with 30 per cent in 2009.

At the other end of the pay scale, 74 per cent of band 1 staff are women, while bands 2 to 7 all have ratios of at least four women to every one man.5

Between November 2009 and November 2017, the number of female hospital and community health service doctors2 increased by nearly 11,000. Over the same period, the number of male doctors rose by just over 4,000.

It means 45 per cent of HCHS doctors2 are now women, compared with 41 per cent in 2009.

The whole NHS workforce has remained 77 per cent female throughout this period.

There are now more women doctors specialising in psychiatry (51 per cent) than men (49 per cent). In 2009, 45 per cent of this specialty group were women.

Women have also overtaken men in clinical oncology (now 53 per cent compared to 49 per cent in 2009) and dental (now 51 per cent compared to 43 per cent in 2009).

Surgery continues to be predominantly male, despite a narrowing of the gap. 27 per cent of surgeons are women compared with 24 per cent in 2009.

Every speciality group across hospital and community health services5 doctors has seen an increase in the proportion of women.

89 per cent of nurses and health visitors are women, making this staffing group marginally more female dominated still than it was in 2009 (88 per cent).

Analysis of those in senior roles shows, despite a narrowing of the gap, women continue to be in the minority.

44 per cent of all Chief Executives across NHS Trusts, CCGs, supporting organisations and central bodies are women. In 2009 this was 38 per cent.

There has been an increase of 340 female executive directors6 over the same period, meaning women now account for 47 per cent of this group, up from 43 per cent in 2009.

The analysis also breaks down numbers of women and men in senior roles by ethnicity. 41 per cent of white senior managers are women, but the gender gaps for other ethnicities are larger, with 30 per cent of senior role holders of Asian and Asian British ethnicity being women.

NHS Digital's workforce statistical team also looked at the number of women non-executive directors across the NHS. The figures show there are 165 more female non-executive directors (718) now than there were in 2009 (553). Women continue to be in the minority in these roles, accounting for 37 per cent as of November 2017 compared with 34 per cent in 2009.

The statistics show that there are 97,000 women from overseas employed in the health service, up from 68,000 in 2009. 47,000 of those 97,000 come from the EU or EEA, with the remaining 51,000 from the rest of the world.


Click here to access the full analysis

Follow us on Twitter: @NHSDigital


Notes to editors

1. NHS Digital is the national information and technology provider for 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 2016/17 financial year, NHS Digital published 292 statistical reports. Our vision is to harness the power of information and technology to make health and care better.

2. Hospital and Community Health Service (HCHS) staff include staff employed by the NHS to provide care in setting other than Primary Care. For example, this includes staff in community settings, hospitals and ambulance trusts, as well as those staff commissioning services, managing and supporting care in central NHS organisations.

3. This analysis takes 2009 as its start date as this is the year in which data had reached sufficient quality to make year-on-year comparisons accurate. November 2017 is the most recent data available. As such, this analysis compares November in each year between 2009 and 2017.

4. Senior roles include staff on the following grades; Consultant (including Directors of Public Health), Agenda for Change Band 9 and Very Senior Managers

5. NHS pay scales 2017-18:

6. Analysis of 'very senior managers excluding chief executives'

7. All figures in this release above 10,000 are rounded to the nearest hundred. Figures over 100,000 are rounded to the nearest thousand. Percentages are rounded to the nearest whole number.

8. For media enquiries please contact [email protected] or 0300 303 3888.

Latest news

Last edited: 29 June 2018 4:45 pm