NHS staff from overseas

Authors: Abi Rimmer 

Publication date:  18 Apr 2017

The House of Commons Library has published a briefing paper on the nationality of NHS staff.[1]

NHS staff

Most NHS staff are British. Around 134 500 report a non-British nationality, which is around 12% of all staff for whom a nationality is known. These staff report over 200 non-British nationalities and just over 60 000 were European Union nationals.

Wider economy

The percentage of British workers in the NHS is broadly in line with the wider economy. The NHS has a lower proportion of staff from new EU countries and a higher from South Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and South East Asia.


Most (74%) doctors in hospital and community health services are British. This is a lower proportion than in other NHS staff categories. 12% (12 928) of doctors report an Asian nationality and 10% (10 513) report an EU nationality other than British, with Irish people making up a fifth of this number.

Regional variation

Although there is some difference between regions, the percentage of non-British doctors has the most uniform regional distribution of any NHS staff category. In the south west, 83% of doctors are British. In the east of England, 67% are British. North, central, and east London have the highest percentage of EU doctors, at 14%.

Change since 2009

In 2009, Indian doctors made up almost 12% of doctors whose nationality was known—this has now fallen to 6%. There have also been reductions in doctors from other non-EU countries such as Zambia, Syria, Iran, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. The number of recorded Greek doctors has more than doubled.


  1. House of Commons Library. NHS staff from overseas: statistics. 2017. [Link]

Abi Rimmer BMJ Careers


Cite this as BMJ Careers ; doi: