Background to the report

Nurses are critical to the delivery of health and social care services, working across hospitals, community services, care homes and primary care. In 2019, around 519,000 people in England were registered to practise as a nurse, while the NHS employed 320,000 nurses in hospital and community services, making up about a quarter of all NHS staff.

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In January 2019, the NHS Long Term Plan acknowledged the need to increase staff numbers, noting that the biggest shortfalls were in nursing. The NHS set up the People Plan programme to decide how it would secure the workforce it needed to meet its future service commitments. In this report, we define workforce planning as the analysis and plans required to ensure that the NHS has the number and type of staff it needs, now and in the future.

Content and scope of the report

The NHS People Plan has, for a variety of reasons, been delayed. Rather than delay for an uncertain time our own reporting, this report sets out the facts on:

  • the scale of the NHS nursing workforce challenge;
  • the challenges to the main entry routes to NHS nursing and more general workforce-related challenges that any future plans will need to address; and
  • the progress made on the People Plan.


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