Increase in doctors and nurses does not include Covid-19 returners

10 July 2020
What was claimed

There are a record 6,000 more doctors and a record 12,000 more nurses than a year ago

Our verdict

This is correct, according to workforce statistics published by NHS Digital for March 2020. It does not include returners or trainees who joined the workforce during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Good news on the NHS just out:

Record doctors: 6,000 more than a year ago

Record nurses: 12,000 more than a year ago

Well on our way to delivering 50,000 more nurses by end of the Parliament.”

Matt Hancock, 25 June 2020

Health secretary Matt Hancock tweeted that 6,000 more doctors and 12,000 more nurses were in the NHS compared to one year ago, and said both of these figures were records. In a press release, seen by Full Fact, the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) said the same thing. 

According to NHS statistics for England up to March 2020, the most recent data available, this is correct. The numbers of doctors and nurses is at a record high since comparable data started to be recorded from September 2009.

Our readers asked us how many of the 6,000 doctors and 12,000 nurses were staff who had previously left the NHS, but returned to help with the Covid-19 pandemic. DHSC confirmed that NHS returners were not deployed until April 2020, and so are not included within these figures. DHSC also confirmed that no student nurses who joined the workforce early due to the pandemic are included within the figures. 

The NHS figures show there were 118,660 full-time equivalent doctors (which looks at the number of hours they all work and add these together to work out how many full-time roles they make up) in the NHS in England in March 2020, an increase of 6,629 on the 112,031 in March 2019. This is the biggest yearly increase, and highest number, since September 2009. These figures don’t include GPs.

The figures also show there were 301,381 full-time equivalent nurses and health visitors in March 2020, up 11,371 on the 290,010 in March 2019. 

DHSC confirmed to Full Fact that it had focused on the figures for nurses alone by subtracting the number of health visitors from the total - a number found on a separate spreadsheet—which showed the number of nurses has risen by 12,131, from 282,422 to 294,553. This is the 12,000 increase the department and Mr Hancock referred to. 

The DHSC press release also says that, compared to 2010, there are over 23,100 more doctors and over 22,000 more “nurses, midwives and health visitors”. The NHS figures show that, between March 2010 and March 2020, the number of full-time doctors has increased by 23,164, while the number of nurses, midwives and health visitors combined increased by 22,213 over the same period, despite the fact that health visitor numbers actually fell by 1,094 in this time.

Mr Hancock also referred to the government’s pledge to deliver “50,000 more nurses” in the NHS by 2024/25. As we have written before, this includes recruiting 31,000 new nurses and encouraging nearly 19,000 existing nurses to stay in the NHS. 

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