The NHS workforce grew by more than 2 per cent last year, which also saw the first rise in the number of NHS managers employed since 2009.

The latest annual census of NHS workforce by the Health and Social Care Information Centre shows the number of full time equivalent staff in NHS England grew by 2.1 per cent to September last year from the same period in 2013.

The same period also saw a 1.7 per cent rise in the number of full time equivalent managers and senior managers, to 35,164 in September 2014. That figure remains 842fte – or 2.3 per cent – lower than the number employed in 2004.

Over that decade, the figure dropped during the last NHS financial crisis in 2006 and 2007, before rising to a peak of 42,509 in 2009. It then fell in each of the following four years, reaching a low point of 34,588 in 2013.

This overall increase meant around 24,000 extra full time staff joined the NHS in the year to September 2014. According to the information centre’s analysis, the workforce has grown by 144,000 (13.8 per cent) since 2004.

According to the data, there were 314,000 full time equivalent qualified nurses, excluding GP practice nurses, an increase of 1.9 per cent since 2013. This is an increase of 9.3 per cent, or 26,700 people, since 2004. With GP practice nurses included the increase over the year to 2014 was 1.8 per cent to 329,000. This is a 9.4 per cent rise on a decade ago.

There has been significant growth in nursing recruitment since the 2013 Francis report which prompted more focus on safe staffing and registered nurse numbers. In October more than 3,000 registered nurses joined the NHS in a single month.

The data also shows the number of medical consultants hit 40,400, an increase of 3.7 per cent, or 1,400 from 2013 and an increase of 43.7 per cent, or 12,300, since 2004.

The total number of professionally qualified clinical staff in September 2014 was 623,000, 1.7 per cent higher than the same month in 2013 and a rise of 16.4 per cent, or 88,000, since 2004.

On the GP workforce the census shows there were 36,900 full time equivalent GPs, 1.7 per cent higher than in 2013 and an increase of 19 per cent since 2004. Excluding trainees the number of GPs was up 15.3 per cent since 2004 to a total of 32,600.

The numbers of clinical support staff reached 307,000 by September 2014, a 3.8 per cent increase on a year earlier and a 13 per cent increase on 2004.

NHS Employers chief executive Danny Mortimer said: “This increase is not yet keeping pace with demands for staff. However, efforts to increase training places, recruit overseas, attract trained staff back to practice and maintain the NHS as an attractive employer are ongoing priorities locally and nationally.

“Employers are acutely aware that staff are bearing the brunt of pressure on the service and are doing everything they can to have more frontline staff. Plans are in place to tackle recruitment challenges and staff shortages but we need to maintain ever more ambitious efforts on this.”