Rise in the number of nursing staff working in the UK

May 8, 2019

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has released figures showing a rise in the number of nursing staff working in the UK. The report states that around 8,000 more nurses, midwives and nursing associates are now registered to work in the UK compared to 12 months ago.

The NMC register data report focuses on nurses, midwives and nursing associates joining and leaving the register between 1st April 2018 and 31st March 2019.

The data reveals a 126% leap in the number of nurses and midwives from outside of the EU registering to work in the UK for the first time – rising from 2,720 last year to 6,157 this year. NMC says that this follows a number of streamlining changes it has made to its systems and to the support it offers applicants through the registration process.

Figures also show an overall rise in the number of nursing staff, with more than 5,000 UK trained nurses, midwives and, in England only, nursing associates, driven by an increase of 1,567 joining the register for the first time and a decrease in those leaving.

The number of nursing and midwifery professionals from the EU continues to decline. Following a peak of 38,024 in March 2017, the number has reduced to 33,035 this year – a 13% drop (nearly 5,000) over two years.

NMC has also conducted some research into why people are leaving the register. It asked over 11,000 people who left the register over a six month period in 2018 for the reasons they left and found:

  • The top reason for leaving was retirement.
  • Almost a third (1,050) of the 3,504 respondents cited too much pressure, leading to stress and/or poor mental health as a reason for leaving.
  • 51% (92) of respondents who had trained within the EU stated that Brexit had encouraged them to consider working outside the UK.
  • 20% (630) of the 3,210 nurses and midwives who trained in the UK and responded to the survey said they were disillusioned by the quality of the care provided to patients.

When looking at the age profile of the register, there is a rise in the number of nursing staff aged under-30, as well as the 51 and over age group. The proportion of people on the register aged 31–50 is decreasing.

Andrea Sutcliffe, Chief Executive and Registrar of NMC, said, 'Nurses, midwives and nursing associates make an enormous contribution to the health and wellbeing of millions of people each year so I’m delighted to see such an increase in those joining our register.

'It’s encouraging to know this is being driven by both UK trained and overseas professionals. It’s clear the changes we’ve introduced – to make it more straightforward for those people with the right skills and knowledge to come and work here from abroad – are making a real difference.

'However, we only have to look at the well documented concerns around high vacancy and turnover rates that exist right across health and social care 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.

'And while there has been a drop in the number of people leaving the register, our survey fires yet another warning shot – that the pressures nurses and midwives face are real and must be taken seriously if we are to properly attract, support and retain the workforce that we need now, and for the future.'

Nadra Ahmed OBE, Co-convenor of the Cavendish Coalition, said, 'We’re pleased that this useful report shows how there are now 8,000 more nurses, midwives and nursing associates registered with the NMC than there were a year ago, which begins to address the current shortfall.

'However, it remains vital that the Government gets its new immigration policy right if we are to keep health and social care services open.

'The health and social care sector urgently needs to retain the EU nationals working in our services now and newly announced efforts to recruit tens of thousands of nurses from overseas over the next five years highlights the importance of ensuring that future immigration policy makes it possible for health and care services to attract and retain the staff needed.

'We need to ensure the development of the future immigration system is responsive and agile, with as little red tape as possible, and that it considers the essential value of health and social care staff to British society rather than setting entry requirements simply on the basis of salary.

'We look forward to engaging with the Government over the coming months to ensure the final proposals in the immigration white paper meet the requirements of the health and social care sector.'

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