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NHS70 - Seven facts for seven decades

In celebration of the NHS’s 70th birthday this week, NHS Digital reveals seven statistics for seven decades.

In celebration of the NHS’s 70th birthday this week, NHS Digital reveals seven statistics for seven decades.

The figures demonstrate how the NHS has evolved since it sprang into being on July 5, 1948, and the changing health and lifestyles of the population.

  • 1948 - NHS is created just three years after the Second World War ended
  • 1959 – there were a total of 89,659 hospital-based nurses, midwives and health visitors in England and Wales - in 2017, there were 343,529 nurses, midwives and health visitors working in NHS Trusts and Clinical Commissioning Groups in England5
  • 1968 – 37% of the population of England and Wales were edentate (had no natural teeth) compared to 6% in 20096
  • 1979 – 23,062 GPs were working in England of which 19,197 were male and 3,865 were female - in 2017 there were 39,843 GPs working in England, of which 21,055 were female7
  • 1989 – in 1989-90 there were 155 hospital admissions for a liver transplant - in 2016-17 this had risen to 6628
  • 1999 – in 1999, 44 per cent of 11-15 year-olds had smoked at least once. In 2016, this had dropped to 19%9
  • 2008 – there were 35,960,539 antidepressant prescription items dispensed in the community in England - in 2017 this had risen to 67,530,375 items10
  • 2016/17 – there were 617,000 admissions in NHS hospitals where obesity was a factor11 an increase of 18% on 2015-16


Notes to editors

  1. NHS Digital is the national and information 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 and 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 admission episodes relate to the first period of inpatient care under one consultant within one healthcare provider. They do not represent the number of patients, as a person may have more than one admission within the year.
  3. Some statistics were only collated from a particular time so are not all available from the time the NHS was created. This press release includes historic data from 1949.
  4. Figures are reused with the permission of the Department for Health and Social Care.
  5. These are headcount numbers but the methodologies used for each of these data sets are not directly comparable. The data for 1959 is for England and Wales and contains hospital-based staff only. The data for 2017 is for England only and contains hospital and community-based staff. The headcount methodology has also been improved to make it a more stringent count of absolute staff numbers. Historic workforce data 1949 to 2017 and provisional workforce statistics as at September 2017.
  6. The Adult Dental Health Survey 2009 Executive Summary
  7. A table showing the number of GPs (headcount) from 1961 to 2017 
  8. Liver Transplant is defined as OPCS4 code J01 Transplantation of liver. The figures provide are a count of finished admission episodes with either a primary or secondary procedure of Liver Transplant. Data from 1989-90.  The most recent Hospital Admitted Patient Care Activity, 2016-17: Procedures and interventions report.
  9. The latest figures are within Smoking, Drugs and Drinking Among Young People in England 2016. The smoking prevalence table shows figures from 1982-2016.
  10. A prescription item refers to a single item on a prescription form. If a prescription form includes three medicines, they are counted as three prescription items. An item can be a single tablet, a packet or several packets of the same medication. Prescription Cost Analysis – England, 2017 provides details of the number of items and the net ingredient cost (NIC) of all prescriptions dispensed in the community in England.
  11. These are hospital admissions with a primary or secondary diagnosis of obesity. Statistics on Obesity, Physical Activity and Diet: England, 2018.
  12. For media enquiries please contact [email protected] or telephone 0300 30 33 888. Follow us on twitter @NHSDigital

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Last edited: 21 August 2020 2:10 pm