Data chart: Consultant numbers have doubled over the past 20 years

Authors: Tom Moberly 

Publication date:  01 Nov 2017

Over the past two decades, the number of consultants working in the NHS has more than doubled, rising from 22 920 in 1996 to 54 539 in 2016.

The rate of growth during this period was faster than in the four decades beforehand. Between 1955 and 1975, the number rose from 5210 to 14 030. Between 1975 and 1995, the number increased by a further 56% from 14 030 to 21 920, before rising to 54 539 in 2016.

The consultant workforce has also grown more quickly than both the GP workforce and the NHS workforce as a whole. Looking at comparative figures for England, the number of full time equivalent (FTE) consultants working in the NHS has more than doubled over the past two decades, from 18 603 in 1996 to 44 333 in 2016. By contrast, the number of FTE GPs in England only rose by 25% over this period, from 27 550 in 1996 to 34 423 in 2016.

Over this period, the total number of FTE staff working across the NHS rose by 37%, from 848 104 in 1996 to 1 162 720 in 2016. This means that consultants make up a greater proportion of NHS staff than they did in the past. In 1995, when there were 17 900 FTE consultants in England and 825 410 other staff working across the NHS as a whole, consultants made up 2.1% of the NHS workforce. By 2016, this proportion had almost doubled: there were 44 333 FTE consultants and 1 116 720 other staff working across the NHS, meaning that consultants made up 3.8% of the workforce.

Tom Moberly UK editor The BMJ

Cite this as BMJ Careers ; doi: