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November 2017

Numbers leaving register continue to climb

New figures published by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) show that there continues to be an increase in the number of nurses and midwives leaving its register over the last 12 months.

In July, the NMC released figures that showed that for the first time there were more nurses and midwives leaving the register than joining it. The new figures show that trend is continuing. Over the last 12 months the number of UK graduates leaving the profession has increased by 9%.

The latest data show that more than 29,000 nurses and midwives of UK origin left the register in the year ending September 2017, compared with about 26,000 in the previous year. The number of nurses and midwives from the EU who left the register this year was almost double that last year.

The number of nurses and midwives from Europe leaving the register has also increased by 67%, while the number joining the register from the EU has dropped dramatically from 10,178 last year to 1,107 this year, a decrease of 89%.

While the number of nurses and midwives leaving the register from the UK continues to rise, indications are that the number joining remains static when compared with the previous 12-month period.

The number of people joining the register is actually higher, by about 4,000, than at the same point in previous years, but even this has not been enough to counteract the numbers leaving, and the net increase in the number of registrants was just over 400.

The NMC has consistently denied that the introduction of revalidation has had any impact on the numbers of nurses and midwives renewing their registration.

NMC chief executive and registrar Jackie Smith said: ‘It’s worrying that we are seeing a continuing rise in nurses and midwives leaving the register and our data is clear that this is being driven by both UK and EU registrants.

‘These figures continue to highlight the major challenges faced by the UK’s health and care sectors around the recruitment and retention of staff. Nurses and midwives work incredibly hard in very difficult circumstances. Those responsible for workforce matters will no doubt respond to what these trends are showing.’

Responding to the new data, Siva Anandaciva, Chief Analyst at The King’s Fund, said: ‘Having enough nurses in the NHS is essential for delivering safe care. It is therefore deeply worrying that nurses are leaving the profession when the NHS is already struggling to fill vacant positions and the demand for care is rising. Our own analysis suggests that the number of NHS nurses and health visitors has fallen for the first time in four years, which will make it even harder for the health service to cope with the coming winter pressures, particularly given how stretched the system is already.

‘While the government’s recent commitment to increase nursing training places is welcome, training nurses takes many years and will not meet the short term needs of the NHS or its patients. This will also not address the long-standing concerns about work-life balance, morale and pay that could be driving away potential nurse trainees. A new workforce strategy is desperately needed.’