Data published today by NHS England shows there were 51,245 additional nurses in September 2023 compared to 2019.

It marks the largest ever sustained growth in the NHS nursing workforce, with the expanded workforce delivering hundreds of thousands of extra appointments.

This means the number of nurses have increased from 300,904 in 2019 to over 352,000 – hitting the government’s manifesto commitment to recruit an additional 50,000 nurses six months early.

This is the largest ever sustained growth in the NHS nursing workforce, with the expanded workforce delivering hundreds of thousands of extra appointments, helping to tackle waiting lists and improve access for patients.

Health and Social Care Secretary Victoria Atkins said:

There are 50,000 extra nurses in the NHS caring for our loved ones, delivering extra appointments and improving access for patients.

We have delivered on our promise but we won’t stop here. The first ever NHS Long Term Workforce Plan will help to retain our current workforce, reform clinical practice, and deliver the biggest training expansion in NHS history, almost doubling the number of adult nurse training places by 2031.

These additional nurses will help support cutting waiting lists – which is one of our five priorities – and getting patients the care they need, when they need it.

Building on this achievement, the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan will further expand the nursing workforce, with additional training numbers, improved retention and the introduction of new roles to support our hard-working nurses.

The 50,000 nurses commitment has been achieved through boosting training and education routes into nursing, ethically recruiting internationally and actions to improve the retention of the existing workforce. This includes a financial support package for nursing students – the NHS Learning Support Fund – providing eligible nursing, midwifery and allied health professions students with non-repayable grants of at least £5,000 per academic year to ensure course sustainability.

The data also shows there are over 1.3 million staff working in NHS Trusts and other core organisations in England, 68,900 (5.6%) more than a year ago.

There are also 7,300 (5.6%) more doctors in the NHS compared to September last year.

The NHS Long Term Workforce Plan – backed by over £2.4 billion over five years – sets out three priority areas to train, retain and reform the health workforce.

The plan will significantly expand domestic education, training and recruitment and will deliver more nurses than ever before. It will almost double the number of adult nurse training places by 2031, with around 24,000 more nurse and midwife training places a year by 2031. This will include over 5,000 more mental and learning disability nurses a year.

By improving culture, leadership, and wellbeing, the government is aiming to ensure up to 130,000 fewer staff leave the NHS over the next 15 years. For example, the NHS and government will improve flexible opportunities for prospective retirees to keep them in the NHS workforce for longer; and make it easier for those who have already left to come back in flexible, contracted roles or as a temp.

Taken together, these recruitment and retention measures will mean the health service has at least an extra 170,000 more nurses in place by 2036/37.

Additionally, the plan commits to reforming training to support education expansion. The government says it will “expand enhanced, advanced and associate roles to offer modernised careers, including increasing training places for Nursing Associates and is also working with regulators and others to explore how nursing students can gain the skills, knowledge and experience they need to practise safely and competently in the NHS in less time.”

The 50,000 nurses target includes nurses working in the NHS in England, including in GP settings. This covers all NHS providers across acute, community, mental health and ambulance settings. It does not include non-NHS providers, including social care providers and social enterprises. For GP settings, it covers all nurses employed in general practice.

The 50,000 nurses are Full Time Equivalent rather than headcount. This means that if a nurse works part time, they will be recorded as less than one FTE nurse (with the number depending on the degree to which they are part time).

While nursing associates are a career progression to become a registered nurse they do not count towards the 50,000 target. Additionally, midwives, allied health professions and health visitors are not part of the registered nurse expansion work.

Regional breakdowns of nurse numbers across England can be found here:

NHS England RegionSep-19Sep-23Change since Sep-19% change since Sep-19
England300,904352,14951,24517.0%
London54,03661,6897,65314.2%
South West27,78933,0565,26719.0%
South East38,88747,6648,77722.6%
Midlands55,59664,8919,29516.7%
East of England28,64933,3504,70116.4%
North West46,06154,6088,54618.6%
North East and Yorkshire49,88556,8917,00614.0%

More information on the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan can be found here: NHS Long Term Workforce Plan fact sheet – Department of Health and Social Care Media Centre (blog.gov.uk)

Workforce statistics can be found here: NHS workforce statistics – NHS Digital

Source: Department of Health and Social Care

Photo licence: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 DEED

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