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Registered nurse numbers are on the rise – but retirement looms for many

Number of nurses approaching retirement age is growing quicker than the number of under-30s 
Older nurse

Number of nurses approaching retirement age is growing quicker than the number of under-30s

There are more nurses registered to work in the UK than ever before, but the workforce is ageing according to latest statistics from the regulator .

The number of nurses on the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) register grew by 6,669 to 660,213 between April and September 2019.

However, those between 61-65 age grew by 5.5% (2,220); 1.4% (1,659) are aged 21-30.

Nursing student recruitment

RCN general secretary Dame Donna Kinnair said: The fact the number of nurses nearing retirement age is outstripping those under 30

Number of nurses approaching retirement age is growing quicker than the number of under-30s 


The number of NMC nurse registrants in the older age bracket rose by 5.5% between April and September Picture: iStock

There are more nurses registered to work in the UK than ever before, but the workforce is ageing according to latest statistics from the regulator.

The number of nurses on the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) register grew by 6,669 to 660,213 between April and September 2019.

However, those between 61-65 age grew by 5.5% (2,220); 1.4% (1,659) are aged 21-30.

Nursing student recruitment

RCN general secretary Dame Donna Kinnair said: ‘The fact the number of nurses nearing retirement age is outstripping those under 30 highlights the effort that needs to be put into attracting more students on to nursing degrees.'

Professor Kinnair pointed to a 25% drop in applications to study nursing since 2016, adding the college was calling for government funding for fees and maintenance.

The data also highlight contraction in learning disability nurse numbers, with 1,000 fewer than 2015.

NMC chief executive Andrea Sutcliffe said: ‘Even with considerable mid-year growth, there are still serious shortages – not least in specialist areas such as mental health and learning disabilities.

‘With so many on our register nearing retirement age, it’s more important than ever to tackle recruitment and retention.’

RCN calls on new government to tackle nurse shortages

The RCN has called for action on what it estimates to be a 44,000 shortage of nurses in England, and for the new government to make good on its pledge for more funding for nursing students.

The NMC data also recorded a 5.5% increase (4,065) in nursing staff from outside the European Economic Area and a 3.2% (1,062) decline in professionals from Europe.

Northern Ireland was the only part of the UK to experience a fall in nurse numbers, down 43 from 24,811 in April to 24,768 in September.


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