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May 2019

More nurses joining Register than leaving

Overall increase in number of nurses – but stress, disillusionment and Brexit fuelling numbers leaving the Register

Around 8,000 more nurses, midwives and nursing associates are now registered to work in the UK than a year ago, according to figures published this month by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).

At a time when every report on the health and care workforce spotlights the shortfall of nursing and midwifery professionals needed to deliver the best, safest care for people, The NMC Register data report shows an overall increase of more than 5,000 UK trained nurses, midwives and, in England only, nursing associates, driven by an increase of 1,567 joining the register for the first time and a decrease in those leaving.

The data reveals a 126% leap in the number of nurses and midwives from outside of the EU registering to work in the UK for the first time – rising from 2,720 last year to 6,157 this year. This follows a number of changes made by the NMC to streamline its systems and better support those applicants who meet its standards, through the registration process.

But the number of nursing and midwifery professionals from the EU continues to decline. Following a peak of 38,024 in March 2017, the number has reduced to 33,035 this year – a 13% drop (nearly 5,000) over two years.

The NMC asked over 11,000 people who left its register over a six-month period in 2018 the reasons why they left. Findings show that although the top reason for leaving was retirement, almost a third (1,050) of the 3,504 respondents cited too much pressure leading to stress and/or poor mental health as a top reason for leaving.

More than half of EU-trained nurses who left the register and responded to the survey said they were leaving because of Brexit.

One in five (630) of the 3,210 nurses and midwives who trained in the UK and responded to the survey said they were disillusioned by the quality of the care provided to patients.

The age profile of the register reveals that numbers in the under-30 and the 51 and over age group are growing, but there has been a decrease in the proportion of people in the 31–50 age group.

Commenting on the report, Andrea Sutcliffe, Chief Executive and Registrar at the NMC, said while she was delighted that there had been increases in both UK trained and overseas professionals, ‘We only have to look at the well documented concerns around high vacancy and turnover rates that exist right across health and social care to know there’s a long way to go before we have all the people we need to ensure the best and safest care for everyone.

‘And while there has been a drop in the number of people leaving the register, our survey fires yet another warning shot – that the pressures nurses and midwives face are real and must be taken seriously if we are to properly attract, support and retain the workforce that we need now, and for the future.’