Latest figures show that over the last year (September 2004 - September 2005) the NHS workforce increased by 34,301 (32,586 Full Time Equivalent). This includes an extra 5,309 doctors, 6,646 extra nurses and 2,123 extra allied health professionals.
These figures mean that since 1997 there are:
- 85,305 (65,444 FTE) more nurses;
- 10,519 more consultants; and
- 16,060 more Allied Health Professionals working in the NHS.
Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt said: 'I'd like to thank NHS staff for the continued high quality of care that they are delivering to patients, as it is NHS staff that are responsible for the real changes we are seeing in patient care - the falling waiting times, the improvement in survival rates for cancer and coronary heart disease.
'Over the last few years we have had record increases in NHS staff.
Over the next few years, we expect the size of the total NHS workforce to stabilise.
'When we launched the NHS Plan in 2000, the public made clear their top priority was to have more staff working in the NHS. We delivered on that, and exceeded the targets we set. We now have over 300,000 more staff working in the NHS in England than in 1997.
'In recent years the rate of growth has eased off. We still have record numbers working in the NHS, but the annual increase has got smaller. In future, as the size of the NHS workforce stabilises, our emphasis will be on staff working differently, in order to deliver more personalised services for patients.
'Through pay deals like Agenda for Change the Government has invested over£1 billion to improve pay and working conditions in the NHS and staff have benefitted hugely from this.
'But we need to make sure we have the right jobs in right geographical areas, right specialities and the right split between the secondary and primary care sectors so that we can deliver the improvements set out in our white paper - 'Our Health, Our Care, Our Say', to provide more care in community settings in line with patients' wishes.
'This means that with in the overall workforce figures there will be a shift in emphasis towards more staff working in community settings rather than hospitals. There will also be a reduction in some jobs in hospitals as NHS trusts become more efficient.'