In 2024, we’ll be looking ahead to the future of the NHS, with our upcoming programme Advancing Healthcare, exploring the many organisations and individuals working with — or as part of — our national health service, and some of the new technologies and ways of working that are fundamentally changing the way patient care is approached. 

As we enter an exciting new phase of our health service, where we start to see improved efficiencies through the increased use of AI and other technological innovations — we highlight some eye-opening facts and stats about the NHS. 

Some illustrate the incredible strain the NHS is under, while others point to the exciting direction it’s heading, as it looks to increasingly harness the value of collaboration, partnerships, innovation and technology.  

Some key facts & stats about the NHS in 2024…

1.  NHS England is the UK’s largest employer, with NHS Scotland coming in a close second. 

2.  The NHS employs over 1.5 million people across the UK, from doctors and nurses to cleaners and receptionists. 

3. On average, 45,000 people each day visit major hospital A&E departments in England. 

Watch: The History of the NHS

4. The NHS ranks as the world’s fifth largest employer, with the US Department of Defence and China’s People Liberation Army, Walmart and McDonald’s ranking in ahead.

5. NHS staff numbers have increased, with 21% more doctors and 20% more nurses than five years ago (2023 data).

6. Ethnic minority staff make up around 15% of people in managerial level positions and nearly 50% of hospital and community health services doctors (2022).

7. 24,000 people on average attend minor A&E facilities like walk-in-centres and minor injuries units each day.

8. Over the course of a year there are typically around 16 million attendances at major hospital A&E and 9 million at minor units.

9. In 2021/22 the Department for Health and Social Care spent £190 billion. This money is used to fund a wide range of health and care services, including GP services, ambulance, mental health, community and hospital services, which are commissioned by the NHS, and public health.

10. As of early October 2023, the backlog of patients waiting over 62 days for cancer treatment was 24,920, down from the recent peak of 33,950 in September 2022.

WATCH: Ode to the NHS: Celebrating 75 years 

11. As of September 2023, 59.3% of patients were treated within 62 days of an urgent GP referral.

12. From April 2021 a new standard was introduced that measures the waiting time between referral and a patient being told they have cancer. (The target is that 75% of patients should be told within 28 days of referral. This has not yet been met; in September 2023, performance was 69.7%.)

13. Between December 2016 and September 2023, the number of fully-qualified GPs in England has fallen by 7%. The number of GPs in training has risen from 5,625 in December 2016 to 10,116 in September 2023. 

14. As of September 2023, there were 134,027 doctors in England’s hospital and community health services. This is 21% higher than five years ago and 34% higher than ten years ago. 

15. In July 2023 there were 330,691 nurses in England’s hospital and community health services. This is 20.3% higher than five years ago.

16. The proportion of face-to-face GP appointments has risen steadily since 2021 and has plateaued at around 72.5% as of September 2023.

Watch our 2023 film on the future of the NHS

NHS key statistics: England – House of Commons Library (