Thank you for contacting me about workforce planning and staffing in the NHS.
The NHS relies on effective workforce planning to ensure it can meet the health and care needs of local communities and I applaud the dedication of healthcare workers across a range of professions.
Latest data for March 2023 shows that there are over 1.28 million full-time equivalent members of staff working in NHS trusts and commissioning bodies in England. This is over 53,600 more people compared to March 2022, which represents an increase of 4.4 per cent. As of April 2023, 500 more full-time equivalent doctors were working in general practice compared with a year ago and they continue to deliver more face-to-face appointments.
There are more than 29,000 additional primary care staff, demonstrating that the Government has delivered on its manifesto commitment to recruit 26,000 more staff in primary care by March 2024.
The latest data also shows there are over 5,300 more doctors and over 12,300 more nurses working in the NHS compared with February 2022. There are now over 37,800 more doctors and over 53,700 more nurses than in 2010. At the same time, almost 2 million more GP appointments were delivered in March 2023 compared with a year ago. This represents 83,500 more appointments each working day.
Other key NHS hospital workforce groups are also continuing to grow. For example, there are now almost 18,000 professionally qualified ambulance staff, 12 per cent more than in 2019 and over 81,000 allied health professionals, 20 per cent more than 2019. These staff work hand in hand with the over 380,000 clinical support staff who are so vital to the effective delivery of patient care. Last year, a record breaking 4,032 doctors accepted a place on GP training. Just as in hospitals, trainees deliver direct patient care while being safely supervised and support fully-qualified GPs, helping to ease workloads and increase capacity in general practice.
The introduction of the Health and Care visa in August 2020 made it quicker and cheaper for regulated health and care professionals to secure their visa to work in the Health and Care sector. Furthermore, a number of Health and Care occupations, such as senior care workers, nurses and auxiliary nurses and assistants, feature on the Shortage Occupation List (SOL). I am glad that, in December 2021 the Government accepted recommendations that care workers be added to the SOL, making them eligible for the Health and Care Visa. This change came into force on 15 February 2022 and is making it easier for care employers to recruit eligible workers to reduce any staff shortages through fast-track processing and reduced visa fees.
However, my ministerial colleagues and I recognise that the Government must go further. With this in mind, I warmly welcome that the Government is backing the recently published workforce plan developed by the NHS to train and retain more staff to deliver patient care over the next 15 years.
As part of this, the number of undergraduate medical school training places will double by 2031 from 7,500 to 15,000, with more medical school places in areas with the greatest shortages. A higher proportion of new medical students will carry out their postgraduate training in services such as primary care, mental health and cancer.
Alongside the commitment to increase the number of domestic medical school places, the plan also includes a commitment to significantly increase GP and adult nurse training places by 2031. Combined with measures to retain existing staff, this plan could lead to an extra 60,000 doctors, 170,000 more nurses and 71,000 more allied health professionals by 2036/37.
In addition, the plan includes measures to provide more routes into NHS professions, such as expanding the number of apprenticeships so that more medical students can qualify through this route, and allowing doctors than GPs to work in general practice. Apprenticeships allow people to earn as they learn, benefiting those for whom a full-time university course is not practical or preferred. There were around 20,900 new NHS apprenticeship starts in 2021/22, making the NHS the largest employer of apprentices in the public sector by number of starts. There has also been funding confirmed as part of a pilot scheme for up to 200 Medical Doctor Degree Apprentices.
Implementing this plan will deliver more staff for the NHS and help deliver on the priority of significantly cutting NHS waiting lists. I am pleased that the plan is being backed by leaders in a range of healthcare professions, Royal Colleges and patient groups.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Craig Whittaker MP