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COVID Recovery Reform Well Underway As 27,000 Additional Nurses Now Working For NHS

08th Mar 2022

Milestone 50,000 additional nurses for the NHS well on track to be met by 2024.


Over 27,000 more nurses are now working across the NHS, which means that the government is on track to meet its manifesto commitment to deliver 50,000 more nurses in the NHS by 2024.

The goal of the extra nurses is to help the NHS through many facets of COVID recovery – such as tackling the COVID backlogs that have built up over the last couple of years, and also ensure world-class care can continue to be provided in the years to come.

A progress report, published today, shows that the overall number of nurses in the NHS are now at 327,907, as of December 2021 compared to 300,904 back in September 2019. There’re a planned 351,000 full-time equivalent nurses by March 2024, to provide world-class care across the health service. The same report also states government plans for reaching that target.

The focus will be on recruitment and retention to cope with those who are retiring, reducing their hours, or moving on from the NHS.

The Health and Social Care Secretary will be delivering a speech later this week, which will cover his plans for long-term healthcare reforms which will support the NHS’s recovery and tackle COVID backlogs.


“It’s fantastic to see the progress we have made towards our manifesto commitment of delivering 50,000 more nurses by 2024. There are now over 27,000 more nurses providing exceptional care and treatment for patients across the country every day.

Nurses are the absolute backbone of our NHS, without whom we would have been lost throughout the pandemic and who will be vital in helping the NHS tackle the COVID backlogs. This government will continue to do everything we can to recruit and retain even more nurses and to support our NHS.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson


“We committed to deliver 50,000 more nurses in the NHS by 2024, and we are over halfway to meeting this target with over 27,000 more nurses already in our NHS compared to September 2019.

I’m grateful to all our NHS nurses who’ve shown immense commitment during the pandemic, working tirelessly to look after us and our loved ones. It is this dedication that is inspiring the next generation and ensuring the NHS continues to provide world-class healthcare.”

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid


The government is outlining how it’ll expand nurse numbers in the NHS, such as where they’ll come from and how they’ll be recruited. This includes:

  • domestic recruitment, including undergraduates, postgraduates, apprenticeships, nursing associates and assistant practitioners converting to fully qualified nurses
  • international recruitment
  • successful retention of existing staff

Overall, the 50,000 recruited nurses will offset the numbers of those leaving the NHS, or retiring, in order to deliver a net total of at least 50,000.

Overseas recruitment is expected to deliver between 51,000 and 57,000 more nurses while around 68.000 to 75,000 more nurses will be trained in England by 2024.

A key element to the reform will also involve retention, expected to contribute between 3,000 and 9,000 nurses to the targeted 50,000, and will address the reasons why staff leave the NHS. The government and the NHS are committed to making the NHS the best place to work through health and wellbeing initiatives, expanding flexible working and putting a greater focus on career development – initiatives which are already helping to retain more exiting numbers.

Funding includes £37 million to go towards staff mental health hubs nationwide, which’ll sit alongside a dedicated helpline and a 24/7 text support service.


“The NHS is caring for more patients than ever before but, to continue doing so, it is vital that we boost the number of nurses in the NHS and reach the target of 50,000 more nurses by 2024.

While there is much more to do, the progress we have made with over 27,000 more nurses now working across the NHS in England than in September 2019, is testament to the tremendous efforts being made to recruit, retain and develop more nurses, and ensure the NHS remains one of the best places in the world to work and receive care.”

Ruth May, Chief Nursing Officer for England


“Over the past few years we have seen an increase in the numbers of people signing up to our universities to start their education as nurses, with a record number of college and school leavers applying for a nursing degree in 2021. It is brilliant to see so many people who are keen to start a rewarding and challenging career in nursing which is so critical to all areas of the NHS.

To continue on track to meet the 50,000 target, we will carry on working with our partners in health, social care and education to support and train new nurses as well all welcoming back people who want to return to the profession and ensuring the existing workforce, who have been so crucial to our pandemic response, are supported and given opportunities to develop in their career.”

Professor Mark Radford CBE, Chief Nurse at Health Education England and Deputy Chief Nursing Officer for NHS England


The plans are set to be responsive to any shortfalls, such as ramping up international recruitment, while maintaining the highest ethical standards and adhering to the code of practice.


The overall target is defined as including all full-time equivalent registered nurses working in the NHS England. This covers all NHS providers across acute, community, mental health and ambulance settings, and those in general practice.

It doesn’t include non-NHS providers, including social care providers and social enterprises, though these sectors will still benefit indirectly as the number of nurses trained increases overall.

Applications have increased overall – applicants to courses at the January deadline increased by 34% in 2022 when compared to 2019 and all eligible students will benefit from a training grant worth at least £5,000 a year, with up to £3,000 extra available for childcare and those studying certain specialisms.

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