NHS nursing workforce Contents


In 2019, the NHS employed around 320,000 nurses in hospital and community services, making up a quarter of all NHS staff, with a further 24,000 employed in GP practices. Around one in ten registered nurses works in social care. In January 2019, the NHS Long Term Plan set out future service commitments and acknowledged the need to increase staff numbers, noting that the biggest shortfalls were in nursing. By the start of 2020, there were nearly 40,000 nursing vacancies in the NHS, a rate of 11%. The Long Term Plan has set a goal of reducing the nursing vacancy rate to 5% by 2028.

A range of national and local NHS bodies are responsible for (nursing) workforce planning as well as supply, which includes training, recruitment and retention of staff. The Department of Health & Social Care (the Department) retains overall policy for the NHS and social care workforces. Health Education England (HEE) oversees NHS workforce planning, education and training, while NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) supports and oversees the performance of NHS trusts, including in relation to workforce retention and other workforce responsibilities. Local NHS trusts, foundation trusts and GPs employ nursing staff, and are responsible for their recruitment, retention and day-to-day management.

Published: 23 September 2020