The NHS provider sector

The NHS provides a comprehensive health service to the public based on clinical need, not an individual's ability to pay. In England, there are 209 NHS providers of urgent and planned care (also referred to as 'secondary care').

Who are the providers, and what services do they provide?

The NHS in England provides care, free at the point of use, for more than 56.5 million people.

It's divided into primary care, secondary care, and tertiary care. Primary care is often the first point of contact for people in need of healthcare, usually provided by professionals such as GPs, dentists and pharmacists.

Secondary care, which is sometimes referred to as 'hospital and community care', can either be planned (elective) care such as a cataract operation, or urgent and emergency care such as treatment for a fracture. Tertiary care refers to highly specialised treatment such as neurosurgery, transplants and secure forensic mental health services. 

There are currently 209 NHS providers of secondary and tertiary care – 143 foundation trusts and 66 NHS trusts. Other non-NHS organisations such as charities and private healthcare companies also provide secondary and tertiary care services. 

Of the 209 NHS providers there are: 

  • 71 acute providers (providing largely hospital-based services) 
  • 10 ambulance services
  • 14 community providers (providing services such as district nursing, health visiting) 
  • 49 integrated providers (for example organisations that provide both acute and community care) 
  • 20 mental health providers 
  • 30 combined mental health and learning disability and community providers 
  • 15 specialist providers (providing services such as specialist eyecare or cancer treatment).

What do they do?

Based on the most recent figures available, every year NHS providers:

  • Transport more than 4 million patients to A&E by ambulance
  • Manage 24.4 million A&E attendances
  • Manage more than 122 million outpatient appointments
  • Provide 95 million contacts in community services
  • Receive 4.4 million referrals for specialist mental health and learning disabilities services
  • Deliver over 578,000 babies.

Who makes it happen?

The NHS is one of the largest employers in the world.

The 209 NHS providers employ over 1.2 million people (full time equivalents, FTE), which makes the NHS one of the world's largest workforces and the biggest employer in Europe.

NHS providers employ almost 133,000 doctors and over 328,000 nurses and health visitors (FTE).

What does it cost?

The total budget for the NHS in 2022/23 was £155.4bn.

Who represents them?

NHS Providers is a membership organisation which represents 100% of this sector. We're the single voice for them, recognised for our effective lobbying and influence within government, as a promoter of shared learning, and as a provider of support and development for our members.