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Why more than 160,000 nurses have walked away from the NHS since 2010

Working in the NHS is taking its toll on nurses' work-life balance, Labour claims

Working in the NHS is taking its toll on nurses' work-life balance, Labour claims


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More than 160,000 nurses have quit the NHS since 2010/11 for reasons including health concerns and poor work-life balance.

Data analysed by the Labour Party and verified by the House of Commons Library show that 163,094 nurses left the NHS in England between June 2010 to June 2018 for reasons other than retirement.

Almost 11% of the nurse workforce quit in 2017-18 – with an even larger proportion of doctors – 14.6% – leaving in the same period.

Staff's own health concerns loom large in the figures:

  • Resignations citing work-life balance rose 169% from 6,669 in 2011-12 to 18,013 in 2017-18.
  • Over the same period, the number of NHS staff citing health as a reason to resign doubled to 4,234.

Loss of thousands of experienced staff 

Responding to the survey, RCN acting general secretary Dame Donna Kinnair, said: 'Health and care services are losing thousands of experienced nursing staff who feel as if no one is listening to their concerns, and patient care is routinely compromised by chronic staff shortages.

'The RCN is calling for accountability for staffing of safe and effective care to be enshrined in law in England to ensure we have the right numbers of nurses in the right places across health and social care.'

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth was expected to claim in a speech on Wednesday a Labour government would invest in pay and training, reintroduce the nursing student bursary in England and promise funding to health-related degrees. He was also expected to say the government had failed in its duties to staff under the NHS Constitution.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said the recently-published NHS Long Term Plan sets out how the government would make the healthcare system the 'safest in the world' and a 'great place to work'.

The spokesperson added: 'We are improving staff retention by promoting flexibility, well-being and career development and helping more nurses return to practice.'


Related material

Labour analysis: figures on NHS staff departures


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