Reforming the workforce

The NHS Long Term Workforce Plan outlines how we can put the NHS on a sustainable footing by training, retaining and reforming the workforce to deliver multi-disciplinary teams serving patients across the NHS. This means recruiting and training more doctors, nurses, allied health and other professionals and ensuring every team member can contribute their skills, experience and education.

The NHS is currently undertaking a massive expansion in the number of doctors we are training to join the future NHS workforce. The NHS currently employs around 134,000 hospital doctors and in primary care there are around 36,000 GPs.

Under the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan, we will double the number of medical school places to 15,000 by 2031/32 and increase GP specialty training places by 50% to 6,000 over the same period, building on a 25% increase in medical training places already delivered since 2018, with a commensurate increase in specialty training places that meets the demands of the NHS in the future.

Delivering the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan

Ambitions around medical associate roles, including physician associates and anaesthesia associates

As part of this package of measures, we have committed to expanding enhanced, advanced and associate roles already working across the NHS, such as anaesthesia associates (in the NHS since 2004), physician associates (in the NHS since 2004) and more recent nursing associate roles (in the NHS since 2016).

Medical associate professions (MAPs) include physician associates (PAs), anaesthesia associates (AAs) and surgical care practitioners (SCPs). MAPs are healthcare professionals who work as part of a multidisciplinary team with supervision from a named senior doctor (a General Medical Council registered consultant or general practitioner). They provide care to patients in GP practices, hospitals and in the community.

MAPs are an important part of how the NHS will deliver healthcare in the future. Under the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan, we aim to have trained 10,000 physician associates and 2,000 anaesthesia associates by 2036/37.

The National Institute for Health and Care Research published research in 2019 which found PAs positively contribute to the medical and surgical team, patient experience and flow, and help support the clinical teams’ workload.

PAs support doctors and perform tasks which help doctors do their job. The same is true for AAs and SCPs – these roles are not a replacement for anaesthetists, or surgeons, but rather they support doctors in their role.

The future of the NHS is a larger medical workforce, supported by and working with multidisciplinary teams to deliver high quality care for patients.

As we grow the NHS workforce, and expand the different roles within it, it is right that we continually update the standards we work to so the NHS better supports our staff and does everything we can to improve patient safety and quality.

Further information