NHS staffing tracker

Monitoring and analysis of key workforce targets and trends.

Hospital services

This section covers some of the key staff groups working in hospital and community health services, which includes hospital inpatient, outpatient and day case episodes and accounts for the majority of health expenditure. Over 1.2 million staff work across these settings. The data does not cover GPs and practice staff, other primary care providers (e.g. dentists), one trust that does not use electronic staff records, and staff from  services which are now provided by non-NHS organisations.

Number of doctors, nurses and scientific, therapeutic & technical (STT) staff 30/06/2020

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Data are for full-time equivalent doctors, nurses and STT staff working in hospital and community health services in England. 'HCHS' stands for 'hospital and community health services'.

Source:  

NHS Digital’s NHS Workforce Statistics.

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These three staff groups (doctors, nurses and STT staff) account for 50% of all staff in hospital and community health services. As at June 2020, there were 302,471 full-time equivalent nurses in hospital and community health services, an increase of nearly 14,000 nurses since June 2019. Over this period, the number of doctors has increased by 9,200  from the same point last year, and for STT staff (which includes occupational therapists, physiotherapists, pharmacists, radiographers, and healthcare scientists) an increase from 141,000 to over 147,500. These increases may be partly attributable to the call for recently retired health care professionals to return to service to help the NHS manage the Covid-19 outbreak or postponement in recruitment efforts.

About the target: Recent NHS staffing commitments detailed in the Conservative Party Manifesto included delivering 50,000 more registered nurses by 2024/25. This number includes 32,000 new nurses and retention of 18,000 existing nurses in the workforce. It is unclear whether the target of 50,000 more nurses by 2024/25 refers to headcount or full-time equivalent, and whether the commitment refers to nurses working in hospital and community services only, or if it also includes nurses working in general practice.


Progress against targets on physiotherapist numbers 30/06/2020

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1. Data are for full-time equivalent physiotherapists in England.

2. Unlike other measures in this section, the number of physiotherapists include those who work in hospital and community health or in primary care services, although it should be noted that numbers in primary care are currently small (<100).

3. Data on the primary care network (PCN) workforce is limited and is not fully complete, therefore this chart includes an estimate of the number of physiotherapists there may be working in primary care networks across England.

Source:  

NHS Digital’s NHS Workforce Statistics, General Practice Workforce Statistics & Primary Care Network Workforce.

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Progress against targets on ambulance paramedic numbers 30/06/2020

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1. Data are for full-time equivalent ambulance paramedics in England.

2. From April 2019, the Ambulance Staff matrix of the NHS Occupation Code manual has undergone a significant change to identify staff in greater detail. This may explain some of the fluctuation in data as these staff are recoded by NHS trusts according to the new categories.

3. The target for this measure begins on the chart in July 2019, after the publication of the Interim NHS People Plan, and stops at the end of the calendar year in December 2023.

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There are ambitious staffing targets for both ambulance paramedics and physiotherapists. As at March 2020, there were just over 15,000 full-time equivalent ambulance paramedics in hospital and community health services, a 4.5% increase from the same point last year. Over the same period, there has been a 3.8% increase in physiotherapist numbers. Progress in numbers for both these groups seems to be moving at about the right rate to meet the respective targets.

About the target: The targets for an additional 5,000 physiotherapists and 2,500 more paramedics by 2023 were detailed in the Interim NHS People Plan (2019). It is not clear whether these numbers relate to full-time equivalents or headcount, and whether these account for staff working in primary and/or secondary services.


Vacancy rates for nurses and doctors 30/06/2020

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1. Data show the shortfall in reported full-time equivalent (FTE) staff in post against planned workforce levels. A vacancy is defined as a post that is unfilled by permanent or fixed-term staff. Agency or temporary staff may fill some vacant posts. Total vacancy rates are a calculation of the total number of FTE vacancies with the total funded or budgeted establishment comprised of the number of staff in post and the number of vacant posts.

2. NHS Improvement collect the data used in this chart directly as part of their monthly workforce data collection. This information is not directly comparable to the data in the NHS Digital publication because of differences in methodology and definition. This data represents management information only and is not an official statistic.

Source:  

NHS England & Improvement’s latest quarterly performance of the NHS provider sector.

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Many posts in the NHS are vacant and, at best, filled by temporary staff. In the latest quarter (January to March 2020), 9.9% of nursing posts were not filled by a permanent or fixed-term member of staff, a decrease of 1.2 percentage points in a year. For doctors, 6.3% were unfilled (a 0.9% decrease). It is still too early to determine whether the NHS is on course to meet the nurse vacancy target of 5% by 2028. Decreased vacancies in the latest quarter may be due to the additional staff working in the NHS during the Covid-19 pandemic.

About the target: The target to improve the nursing vacancy rate to 5% by 2028 was in the NHS Long Term Plan (2019). However, the number of advertised vacancies is different to the proportion of posts not filled by permanent staff and it is not clear which method will be used to calculate success against the 5% target.


Sickness absence rates 01/04/1920

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1. Sickness absence rates have been calculated by dividing the “FTE Number of Days Sick” by the “FTE Number of Days Available” as recorded in electronic staff records. These rates only include NHS staff working in hospital and community health services.

2. Sickness absence rates for public sector staff are published by ONS on an annual basis only. We have assumed that within a calendar year, sickness absence rates remain stagnant in for the purpose of creating a time series. The data are collected differently and so any direct comparison should be treated with caution.

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While there will always be times when NHS staff become unwell and are unable to attend work, the relatively high rates in this sector suggest more could be done to address workplace issues that can lead to, cause and sustain absence. The sickness absence rate across all hospital and community health professions as at May 2020 was 4.72%. In the previous month, sickness absence was at its highest level ever recorded, at 6.2% - this was largely due to Covid-19 and staff having to self-isolate and take sick leave if they were experiencing symptoms of the virus.

About the target: The target to reduce sickness absence rates in the NHS to that of the public sector average (2.9% in 2016) was cited in the NHS Long Term Plan (2019). It is not clear if this target includes staff working in primary care; however, robust data for primary care sickness absence is not available. The plan did not specify a time frame for achieving this reduction.


Reasons for staff leaving hospital and community health service roles (excluding voluntary resignations) 01/04/1920

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Voluntary resignations from hospital and community health service roles 01/04/1920

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Over a 12-month rolling period, the total number of staff retiring from hospital and community health services has increased compared to the previous year (from 19,426 to 20,142). The number voluntarily resigning due to work life balance or incompatible working relationships has also increased compared to the previous year (from 20,335 to 21,369).

About the target: The NHS Long Term Plan (2019) set out an ambition to “improve staff retention by 2%; equivalent to 12,400 additional nurses”. However, there is no readily available, regularly updated data to monitor performance against this specific measure.


nhsst 01/04/1920

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