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Statistics show change in NHS workforce over time

The number of Full Time Equivalent (FTE) staff working in the NHS in England has increased by 1.5 per cent (17,900) since 2016, according to figures released by NHS Digital today.

*All figures are in Full Time Equivalent. Headcount information is also available.

The number of Full Time Equivalent (FTE)3 staff working in the NHS in England has increased by 1.5 per cent (17,900) since 2016, according to figures released by NHS Digital today.

At 30 September 2017, there were 1.21 million FTE staff working for the NHS in England, compared to 1.20 million at the same point in 2016.

The report, Healthcare Workforce Statistics - September 2017, Experimental, combines workforce information for Hospital and Community Health Service (HCHS) staff (those working in NHS Trusts, mental health trusts, CCGs4, NHS support organisations and central bodies in England), and the General Practice workforce. Both of which are published separately, but are provided here together in a biannual report to form an overall view.

Workforce numbers for the independent sector are also included in the report.5

Today's figures show that at 30 September 2017, for staff working for NHS Trusts and CCGs6,7 there were 1.05 million staff compared to 1.04 million at the same point in 2016. Of these staff:

  • The number of professionally qualified clinical staff8 (excluding GPs andnurses in GP practices) was 569,000 FTE, an increase of 1.3 per cent (7,470) since 2016.
  • There were 52,800 FTE hospital doctors in training9, an increase of 2.4 per cent (1,250) since 2016.
  • Consultant numbers stood at 45,800 FTE, an increase of 3.4 per cent (1,490) since 2016.
  • Nurses and health visitors, excluding nurses in GP practices, stood at 284,000 FTE, a decrease of 0.2 per cent (435) since 2016.
  • There were 21,200 FTE midwives, an increase of 0.8 per cent (168) since 2016.
  • There were 315,000 FTE staff who provide support to clinical staff10, an increase of 1.8 per cent (5,450) since 2016.
  • NHS infrastructure support staff11 stood at 165,000 FTE, an increase of 1.8 per cent (2,850) on 2016. Of this group:

    o Managers stood at 21,700 FTE, an increase of 3.3 per cent (687) on 2016.
    o Senior managers stood at 10,300 FTE, an increase of 7.0 per cent (676) on 2016.

Earlier this month, a publication also reports on all staff providing services in General Practice, at the time of the collection. Final figures on General Practice, at 30 September 2017, show:

  • There were 33,100 FTE GPs (excluding locums)12, a decrease of 2.2 per cent (742) on 2016.
  • There were 15,800 FTE nurses in GP practices, a decrease of 0.2 per cent (27) on 2016.
  • GP Direct Patient Care and admin staff numbers stood at 75,200 FTE, a decrease of 0.2 per cent (121) on 2016.

Figures on some of the independent sector healthcare workforce providing NHS-commissioned services are also included in today's report.

The total number of FTE staff working in the independent healthcare workforce at 30 September 2017 was 46,900, based on those organisations that provided data to NHS Digital or whose data could be extracted from the ESR.5

More recent provisional data for the NHS HCHS workforce has also been published today, which relates to November 2017.

Other workforce reports released today, separate to this publication are:

NHS Sickness Absence Rates, October 2017, provisional statistics

NHS Workforce Statistics, November 2017, provisional statistics

Earlier this month, NHS Digital also published:

General and Personal Medical Services, England (final September 2017)

General and Personal Medical Services, England (provisional December 2017)


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 and citizens 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. The Health and Social Care Information Centre is a non-departmental body created by statute, also known as NHS Digital. We provide 'Information and Technology for better health and care'. Find out more about our role and remit at

2. Counts of figures under 1,000 are exact and figures over 1,000 but less than 10,000 have been rounded to the nearest 10. Figures over 10,000 but less than 100,000 have been rounded to the nearest 100 and figures over 100,000 have been rounded to the nearest 1000. Figures over one million are rounded to the nearest 10,000. Percentages have been rounded to one decimal place.

3. Full Time Equivalent (FTE) measures an individual's working hours as a proportion of their standard full time contract. This means that a person who worked 3.75 hours of a 37.5 hour contract would count as 0.1 FTE and somebody who worked 37.5 hours would count as 1.0 FTE. FTE is based on each individual's contract, which means that full time hours will vary.

4. Previously Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) when they existed within the Electronic Staff Record (ESR).

5. Please note that these figures do not reflect the entire independent sector healthcare workforce.

6. Between September 2012 and 2013, the Health and Social Care Act reforms were enacted. These created a range of new organisations, disbanded other organisations and transferred certain functions between organisations. Certain staff previously not working in the NHS, for example for groups of staff working for Department of Health, were transferred to NHS organisations. This would lead to an increase in the Central Bodies and Support to NHS table. Certain staff working in Primary Care Trusts were transferred to work in central NHS organisations. This would lead to an apparent increase in staff working in Central Bodies and Support to NHS and a corresponding decrease in staff working in NHS Trusts and CCGs.

7. Between September 2009 and 2012, a number of new independent organisations were set up as a result of the Transforming Community Services and Any Qualified Provider initiatives. These took on some functions previously delivered by staff directly employed by NHS Trusts and PCTs and led to a decrease in certain staff groups (such as nurses and support to clinical staff) in the NHS Trusts and CCGs table and an increase for these groups in the Independent Sector historic table. This Independent Sector historic table includes only those organisations that used the Electronic Staff Record. Since 2015, NHS Digital has been collecting and publishing workforce information from Independent Sector organisations that do not use the Electronic Staff Record, so progressively more independent sector organisations will have their workforce information included in the figures.

8. Professionally qualified clinical staff includes: Total Doctors (including GPs), Nurses & Health Visitors (including nurses in GP practices), Midwives, Ambulance staff, Scientific, Therapeutic & Technical staff.

9. Hospital doctors in training includes: Speciality Registrars; Core Medical Training; Core Dental Training; Foundation Doctor Year 2; and Foundation Doctor Year 1.

10. Support to clinical staff includes the following staff groups: Support to doctors, nurses & midwives, Support to scientific, therapeutic & technical staff and Support to ambulance staff.

11. NHS infrastructure support includes the following staff groups: Central functions, Hotel, property & estates, Senior Managers and Managers.

12. Following the September 2016 collection, further guidance was provided to GP Practices around the recording of GP Locums on the wMDS return. The subsequently higher GP Locum numbers reported in March 2017 are not comparable to previous figures in the time series due to indications that this additional guidance has led to more accurate reporting of GP Locum staff. This also means the Total GP numbers which include locums are not comparable.

13. For media enquiries please contact or telephone 0300 30 33 888.

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Last edited: 6 February 2020 2:43 pm