The NHS workforce has grown by more than 2% over the past 12 months, according to latest figures, but managers admit that recruitment is failing to keep pace with demand.
Latest data published by the Health and Social Care Information Centre shows the number of whole time equivalent staff in the NHS in England grew by 2.1% during the 12 months to September 2014.
This increase meant around 24,000 extra full-time staff joined the NHS. According to longer term analysis by the information centre, the workforce has grown by 144,000, or 13.8%, over the last decade since 2004.
In September 2014, there were 314,000 WTE qualified nurses, excluding practice nurses. This represents an increase of 1.9%, or 5,820, since September 2013 and an increase of 9.3%, or 26,700, since 2004.
“This increase is not yet keeping pace with demands for staff”
With GP practice nurses included, the total registered nursing workforce increased by 1.8% to 329,000 over the year to 2014. This is a 9.4% rise on a decade ago.
The numbers of clinical support staff such as healthcare assistants had reached 307,000 by September 2014, a 3.8% increase on a year earlier and a 13% increase on 2004.
Much of the recent growth in nursing numbers was sparked by the Francis report in 2013. Since September 2014 more than 3,000 registered nurses joined the NHS in a single month to October.
But Danny Mortimer, chief executive of the NHS Employers organisation, accepted that further recruitment efforts were needed by trusts.
“This increase is not yet keeping pace with demands for staff,” he said. “However efforts to increase training places, recruit overseas, attract trained staff back to practice and maintain the NHS as an attractive employer are ongoing priorities for the NHS locally and nationally.
“Employers are acutely aware that staff are bearing the brunt of pressure on the service and are doing everything they can to have more frontline staff,” he added.