How big is the NHS?

How do you make a workforce the size of Latvia work better?

The NHS is big.

It’s often said that it’s the biggest workforce in the world – which isn’t actually true. But it still makes the top five, with its 1.5 million workers ranking it among McDonald’s, Walmart and the Chinese military. In terms of a country, the NHS is almost the size of Latvia.

Of course, those other workforces are geographically far more spread out. Our wonderful NHS staff are spread across a relatively small country, treating a mind-blowing 1 million patients every 36 hours.

Indeed, the scale and variety of NHS employment is truly remarkable:

  • The NHS employs around 315,000 nurses and health visitors alone
  • NHS Direct takes around 8 million calls a year
  • Doctors working in the NHS come from 152 different countries
  • The NHS employs nearly 20,000 ambulance drivers who make around 50,000 journeys each week
  • Approximately 62,000 EU staff work across the NHS
  • The UK has more than 33,000 full-time GPs

This barely scratches the surface, but gives a good idea of just how big and busy our national healthcare system is. But when you examine the kinds of challenges they’re currently facing, you get a clearer sense of why Europe’s biggest employer is seemingly not big enough.

Ageing patients, shrinking funding

This giant workforce is being pushed, pulled, stretched and squeezed for a number of reasons.

Our population is ageing. Life expectancy was 13 years lower when the NHS was created than it is today. The average 65-year old costs the NHS 2.5 times more than the average 30-year old; the average 85-year old costs five times more.

Meanwhile, NHS funding is increasing each year by less than it used to. Historically, the average annual rise was 4% – and under the last Labour government it went up by 7%. Since 2010, it’s increased by around 1% each year.

And there are a number of other, equally significant challenges too: the removal of student bursaries; language testing barriers for foreign staff; unprecedented demand for A&E services. Take your pick.

Whatever way you look at it, this workforce that’s the size of an entire country still doesn’t appear to be big enough to manage the task at hand. But at the same time, trusts have ongoing efficiency targets that insist on the need to more with less.

So how is that possible?

Better technology is proven to make NHS trusts do more with less

To some extent, the NHS needs a miracle. Or at least, some practical miracles: some genuine innovation, and some meaningful ideas.

At Clarity, we can’t claim to have solutions to all of the NHS’ challenges. But we have worked exhaustively to develop one technological miracle. And we’re delighted to say that it works.

The technology that powers Clarityroster and Claritystaffbank has saved at least £1.7 million for the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, £2.9 million for Worcestershire Acute Hospital NHS Trust, and we’re actively helping many others.

So, when it comes to doing more with less, it really helps. Claritystaffbank, for example, allows candidates to self-register and self-select shifts through our easy-to-use app, which increases engagement of bank staff. And through other innovations like posting multiple shifts in one screen or streamlined payroll, we’ve made life much easier for those who manage your bank, too.

With agency spend always under the microscope, and a huge but fragile workforce that needs to be managed more carefully than ever, we’ve developed a tool that makes a genuine difference.

For a free demo of Claritystaffbank, click here.


Irina Buzdugan