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UK nurse numbers fall for first time in recent history

More nurses and midwives are leaving the Nursing and Midwifery Council register than are joining it.

More nurses and midwives are leaving the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) register than are joining it, new figures reveal

Leaving NMC
The total number of NMC registrants fell from 692,556 in March 2016 to 690,773 a year later.
Picture: iStock

This is the first time this has occurred in recent history, with many nurses citing heavy workloads and falling standards of care as reasons for abandoning the profession.

All nurses must be registered with the NMC, including those who have come from abroad.

There has been a sharp fall in the number of UK-born nurses on the NMC register, while the number of European Economic Area (EEA) nurses leaving the register has more than doubled in four years.

Shortfall

NMC chief executive Jackie Smith said: 'Our figures today show for the first time that there are now more nurses and midwives leaving the register than joining it.

'At a time of increased pressure on the healthcare workforce to deliver quality patient care, we hope our data will provide evidence to support government and employers to look in detail at how they can reverse this trend.'

The total number of NMC registrants fell from 692,556 in March 2016 to 690,773 a year later.

The number of UK registrants had already begun to dip in 2016, with 2,557 less than the year before.

A further 5,587 then left and were not replaced between 2016 and 2017.

Now it would appear EEA and overseas nurses are not making up the shortfall.

Ageing professions

Ms Smith said: 'Nursing and midwifery are widely acknowledged to be ageing professions, with significant numbers on the register coming up to retirement age. While there’s no denying this is true, our figures show that people below retirement age are leaving in increasing numbers.'

Almost double the number of 21-30 year olds quit in 2016-17 (2,901), compared to 2012-13 (1,510).

The number of people retiring in their early fifties has also increased by around 2,000 a year.

About 600 more verification requests were received in 2016-17 than 2012-13 for UK nurses to work abroad – mainly in Australia, Ireland and the US.

Non-retirement leavers

An NMC survey of 2,240 non-retirement leavers between June 2016 and May 2017 revealed 44% were leaving because of working conditions, including staffing levels and workload, while 27% were unhappy with the quality of care provided to patients.

Around 16% said they were leaving because of poor pay and benefits.

RCN general secretary Janet Davies said: 'These figures are the starkest warning yet that nurses have put up with too much for too long. Our members have had enough, and as a result the profession is shrinking.

'Patients are paying the price for the government’s failure to plan for the future and it looks set to get worse. With more people leaving than joining, the NHS will be further than ever from filling the 40,000 vacant nurse jobs in England alone.'

 

 


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