The number of nurses working in the NHS has increased almost five-fold over the last seven decades, figures show.

Historical workforce figures released by NHS Digital to mark the health service’s 70th anniversary reveal that the number of consultants working in the NHS has also soared.

Some records on staffing figures for England and Wales date back to 1949, the year after the founding of the health service.

Meanwhile data on the number of GPs working in England show stark gender differences since records began in the 1960s.

The figures show:

  • In 1949 there were 68,013 registered nurses in hospitals in England and Wales.

  • By 2018, the total headcount for nurses was 320,422.

  • In 2018 there were 46,297 consultants in England alone, a significant rise on the 3,488 consultants across England and Wales in 1949.

  • There were 5,637 midwifery staff in 1949. By 2018 there were 26,519.

  • On 1949, there were 11,735 “full-time equivalent” hospital doctors in England and Wales.

NHS Digital data shows the difference in the ratio of male and female GPs over the last few decades Credit: PA
  • In 2018, the number of medical and dental staff stood at 109,509.

  • In 1963 there were 22,159 GPs in England and Wales, of whom, 19,951 were male and 2,208 were female.

  • By 2018 the number of female GPs had exceeded the number of male family doctors – there are 41,693 GPs, including 17,366 men and 21,736 women.

There are around 100,000 vacancies in The NHS England. Credit: PA

However, the NHS in England is around 100,000 workers short of what it needs.

Figures from NHS Improvement in May show that in addition to the 1.1 million whole-time equivalent staff employed by NHS providers in England, there are around 100,000 vacancies.

This includes around 36,000 nurses and almost 10,000 doctors.

The health body described how “every unfilled shift is an operational challenge at the frontline” and vacancy levels have an impact on performance.

The NHS in England has launched its biggest ever recruitment drive, ploughing £8 million into a campaign to encourage people to take up roles within the health service.