More doctors and nurses are working for the NHS, but the number of support staff has fallen, a workforce census by the Information Centre for health and social care has shown.

Between September 2006 and September 2007, the number of professionally qualified clinical staff increased by 6,625 to reach 681,246. But the number of clinical support staff - such as nursing assistants, auxiliary staff and administrators - fell by more than 11,000.

The number of managers fell for the second year running, by 252 (0.7 per cent) to 36,499. However, the fall was lower than the 6.7 per cent fall in 2006.

The census, which covered hospital, community, general and personal medical services, showed the overall NHS workforce dropped by 7,596 (0.6 per cent) to 1,330,544 between September 2006 and September 2007.

In September 2007, the NHS employed more doctors than ever before - a total of 127,645 and an increase of 2,033 (1.6 per cent) since 2006.

There were more than 25,000 midwives - a total of 25,093 and an increase of 624 (2.6 per cent) since 2006, and more qualified nurses - a total of 399,597 and an increase of 1,262 (0.3 per cent) since 2006.

There were also more consultants - a total of 33,674 and an increase of 800 (2.4 per cent) since 2006, and more GPs - a total of 33,364 and an increase of 273 (0.8 per cent) since 2006.

The number of physiotherapists, radiographers, school nurses, community matrons and modern matrons in the NHS also increased between 2006 and 2007.

The number of healthcare assistants, the third largest group within clinical support staff to doctors and nurses, continued to increase (by 1,294 or 3.2 per cent) to reach 41,282 in 2007.

However, the number of nursing assistants and auxiliary staff, the largest group within clinical support, fell by 8,863 (7.7 per cent) to 106,825. Clerical and administrative staff, the second largest group, fell by 1,375 (1.4 per cent) to 95,982.

There was also a decrease in the number of practice staff (excluding practice nurses) and support to scientific, therapeutic and technical staff.

Information Centre chief executive Tim Straughan said: "The workforce census offers a vital insight into the NHS workforce and this year points to more professionally qualified clinical staff within the health service. This increase is good news for the NHS as it means more expertise at the frontline."

A full copy of the report is at: www.ic.nhs.uk