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The NHS is the largest employer in Wales and currently employs more than 99,000 people, in more than 85,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) posts. Data on staff employed by the NHS is available from 1979, however due to changes in the classifications of staff only the overall numbers are strictly comparable over time.

There have been a number of changes to the NHS occupation manual and several data quality issues identified in recent years. These affect the comparisons over time for some staff groups; further details can be found in the Quality report.

The time period covered by this data includes the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Most of the staff groups at 30 September 2020 included staff on short term or fixed contracts. These included recently retired staff brought in to help during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The data exclude General Medical Practitioners and some Dental Practitioners as they are independent NHS Contractors.

The data is sourced from the NHS Electronic Staff Record, provided by Health Education and Improvement Wales.

Data included in this release is published on StatsWales.

1. Main points

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Chart showing the number of staff directly employed by the NHS in Wales, by staff group, at 30 September 2019 and 2020. All groups have increased since 30 September 2019.

NHS staff on StatsWales

Between 30 September 2019 and 30 September 2020 (in terms of full-time equivalent numbers)

  • The total number of staff increased by 4,101 (5.1%) to 85,145.
  • Medical and dental staff increased by 518 (7.7%) to 7,211.
  • Nursing, midwifery and health visiting staff increased by 1,462 (4.4%) to 34,762.
  • Other staff groups increased by 2,121 (5.2%) to 43,172.

2. Summary of staff employed

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Chart showing the number of staff directly employed by the NHS in Wales each year between 1979 and 2020, broken down by staff group. The chart shows that since 1979 the number of full time equivalent staff has increased by 81.5% and by 5.1% in the most recent year.

NHS staff on StatsWales

The total number of staff directly employed by the NHS (FTE) has gone up from 46,909 in 1979 to 85,145 in 2020, an increase of 81.5%. The increase of 5.1% in the number of staff between 30 September 2019 and 30 September 2020 is the biggest seen in recent years, which may be partly due to temporary staff in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Table 1: Number of staff (FTE) directly employed by the NHS in Wales at 30 September 2019 and 30 September 2020, and the percentage change from 30 September 2019
Staff groups At 30 September 2019 At 30 September 2020 % Change from 2019
Medical and dental
  Hospital medical (a) 6,346 6,798 7.1%
  Hospital dental 170 169 -0.6%
  Community / public health medical 45 49 9.1%
  Community / public health dental (b) 132 195 47.8%
  All medical and dental staff 6,693 7,211 7.7%
Nursing, midwifery and health visiting
  Registered nurses and health visitors 21,359 21,898 2.5%
  Registered midwives 1,389 1,377 -0.9%
  Support staff (c)(d) 10,552 11,487 8.9%
  All nursing, midwifery and health visiting staff 33,301 34,762 4.4%
Scientific, therapeutic and technical
  Qualified staff 10,559 11,164 5.7%
  Support staff (c)(d) 3,218 3,347 4.0%
  All scientific, therapeutic and technical staff 13,777 14,512 5.3%
Administration and estates
  Senior Manager / Manager 2,621 2,538 -3.2%
  Clerical and Administrative 14,969 15,770 5.3%
  Maintenance and Works 1,097 1,415 29.0%
  All admin and estates staff 18,687 19,722 5.5%
Health Care Assistants and other Support Workers
  Health Care Assistant (c) 85 94 10.4%
  Support Worker 5,985 6,080 1.6%
  All HCAs and other support staff 6,071 6,174 1.7%
Ambulance
  Registered staff 1,100 1,151 4.6%
  Support staff (d) 1,331 1,518 14.1%
  All ambulance staff 2,431 2,670 9.8%
Other
  Other non-medical staff (e) 86 94 9.5%
  Total 81,044 85,145 5.1%

Source: Health Education and Improvement Wales (HEIW)

(a) See GP trainees.
(b) See Dentists (non-hospital dental staff).
(c) See Healthcare Assistants (H1s) and Nursing Assistants / Auxiliaries (N9s).
(d) See Ambulance personnel.
(e) Staff on general payments, and other non-medical staff. Also see Other staff.

Further details can be found in the Quality report.

All staff groups showed an increase in staff numbers from 30 September 2019 to 30 September 2020. It is likely that some staff who were taken on temporarily during the COVID-19 pandemic are still recorded on the ESR system.

  • Hospital medical staff increased by 452 (7.1%) to 6,798. This included an increase of 99 (4.0%) in the number of hospital medical consultants to a total of 2,612 at 30 September 2020.
  • Registered nursing and health visiting staff increased by 539 (2.5%) to 21,898; and nursing support staff increased by 936 (8.9%) to 11,487. Registered midwives decreased by 13 (0.9%) to 1,377.
  • Scientific, therapeutic and technical staff increased by 734 (5.3%) to 14,512. At 30 September 2020, 77% of scientific, therapeutic and technical staff were qualified staff and 23% of staff worked in support grades.
  • Administration and estates staff increased by 1,036 (5.5%) to 19,722. At 30 September 2020, clerical and administration staff made up 80% of the administration and estates staff.
  • Healthcare assistants and other support workers increased by 104 (1.7%) to 6,174. At 30 September 2020, 98% of staff in this group were other support workers.
  • Ambulance staff increased by 239 (9.8%) to 2,670. At 30 September 2020, registered staff made up 43% of the ambulance total.
  • All other non-medical staff increased by 8 (9.5%) to 94.

More detailed breakdowns within the staff groups, including staff numbers for individual NHS organisations, are available on StatsWales.

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Pie chart showing the proportion of staff by staff group at 30 September 2020. The biggest group is the nursing, midwifery and health visiting group, making up 41% of the total.

At 30 September 2020, almost half of the staff directly employed by the NHS in Wales were either medical and dental staff, or belonged to the nursing, midwifery and health visiting group. The nursing, midwifery and health visiting group was the largest staff group, accounting for 41% of all staff.

Staff summary data is available on StatsWales.

3. Quality and methodology information

The data is sourced from the NHS Electronic Staff Record provided by Health Education and Improvement Wales. Further information is available in the Quality report.

Well-being of Future Generations Act

The Well-being of Future Generations Act 2015 is about improving the social, economic, environmental and cultural wellbeing of Wales. The Act puts in place seven wellbeing goals for Wales. These are for a more equal, prosperous, resilient, healthier and globally responsible Wales, with cohesive communities and a vibrant culture and thriving Welsh language. Under section (10)(1) of the Act, the Welsh Ministers must (a) publish indicators ('national indicators') that must be applied for the purpose of measuring progress towards the achievement of the wellbeing goals, and (b) lay a copy of the national indicators before the National Assembly. The 46 national indicators were laid in March 2016.

Information on the indicators, along with narratives for each of the well-being goals and associated technical information is available in the Well-being of Wales report.

Further information on the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015.

The statistics included in this release could also provide supporting narrative to the national indicators and be used by public services boards in relation to their local wellbeing assessments and local wellbeing plans.

Next update

12 May 2021

4. Contact details

Statistician: Bethan Sherwood
Telephone: 0300 025 6735
Email: stats.healthinfo@gov.wales 

Media: 0300 025 8099

SFR 41/2021

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