More nurses leaving the profession than joining, say figures

3 Jul 17

The number of British nurses and midwives quitting the profession has outstripped the number of new joiners for the first time in recent history, according to the professional regulator.

Figures issued by the Nursing & Midwifery Council today show that, between 2016 and 2017, 45% more UK registrants left the register than joined it for the first time.

The figures show that 29,434 UK registrants left the register in 2016-17. This compares to 20,240 initial joiners in the same year.

The NMC also highlighted a “notable increase” in the number of young nurses [those aged under 40] leaving the profession.

According to the regulator, excluding retirement, the top reasons giving for quitting nursing and midwifery are working conditions, change in personal circumstance (such as ill health or caring responsibilities) and disillusionment with the quality of care provided.

Commenting on the figures, Jon Skewes, director for policy, employment relations and communications at the Royal College of Midwives, said they were “worrying”.

He noted that there was already a 3,500 shortage of midwives in England.

“It is important to know what is driving this reduction. I have no doubt that the incredible pressures midwives are under due to increasing demands on services are a factor here. This combined with years of pay freezes and pay restraint has left our health professionals demoralised and disillusioned, and it is no surprise many are leaving,” Skewes said.

At the Royal College of Nursing, Janet Davies, chief executive and general secretary, 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.”

She said the average nurse was now £3,000 worse off in real terms compared to 2010 and urged the government to lift the public sector pay cap.

  • Vivienne Russell

    Vivienne Russell is managing editor of Public Finance magazine and

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