Brexit, retirement and stress: why nurses are leaving the register

NMC surveyed ex-registrants to find out why they left nursing

NMC surveyed ex-registrants to find out why they left nursing

Retirement and stress are common reasons why nurses leave the profession. Picture: iStock

The UK lost almost 5,000 nurses from the European Union (EU) in the past two years, according to the latest Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) register report.

In a period when Brexit has dominated the news, the number of EU nurses on the UK register fell from 38,024 (March 2017) to 33,035 this year.

The Brexit factor

The NMC surveyed nurses who left its register over a six-month period in 2018 to understand their reasons for leaving. Of the 180 EU nurses who responded, 51% said Brexit had encouraged them to seek work outside of the UK.

Dame Donna Kinnair.

RCN general secretary Dame Donna Kinnair said: 'It is inappropriate to rely on a steady stream of nurses from beyond the EU, which seems to be the plan in England in particular.'

Other findings from the NMC survey show the most common reason for nurses leaving was retirement, however almost a third (1,050) of the 3,504 respondents cited pressures leading to stress and/or poor mental health as a reason for leaving.

'Politicians should be alarmed'

Professor Kinnair added: 'Politicians should be alarmed by the finding that almost one in three quit nursing because of intolerable pressure.

'They have abused the goodwill of nurses for too long and that dam is starting to burst.'

The data also reveal:

  • 7,959 more nurses, midwives and nursing associates are registered to work in the UK than 12 months ago – a 1.2% increase.
  • 126% increase in nurses and midwives from outside the EU registering for the first time, rising from 2,720 last year to 6,157 this year.
  • The under-30s and 51-and-over age groups are growing but the proportion of those aged 31–50 age group is declining.

Andrea Sutcliffe of the NMC.

NMC chief executive Andrea Sutcliffe said she was delighted to see an increase in those joining the register.

But she cautioned: 'We only have to look at the well-documented concerns around high vacancy and turnover rates 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.'

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