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‘Fifth of nurses who quit blame too much pressure’



Just over a fifth of nurses who have quit the profession said the key reasons for leaving included too much pressure, an NMC report released today has found, prompting calls for better wellbeing support.

In a survey of 5,639 professionals who quit the register between July 2019 and June 2020 across the UK, the nurse regulator’s annual report found that apart from retirement, the most common reasons for leaving included too much pressure (23%) and the impact of a negative workplace culture (18%).

The document also revealed a slowing growth rate in the numbers of registered nurses, midwives and nursing associates, while the number of professionals nearing retirement has surged.

The NMC cautioned that ‘the impact of Covid-19 on a workforce under increasing pressure is a clear concern’, while chief executive Andrea Sutcliffe added that ‘we must do all we can to support the physical and mental well-being of our professionals so they feel able to stay’.

This warning comes despite registrants leaving at the lowest rate for five years – down to 23,836 in 2020-21 from a peak of 34,941 in 2016-17. Likewise, the number of registrants hit a record high this year at 731,918, although this growth of 15,311 (2.1%) is below the 18,370 who signed up in 2019-20.

However, the number of registrants in the retirement age bracket of 56 and above increased by 6.2%, now standing at 154,567 or 21% of the register. This suggests many ‘may have stayed on to help tackle the pandemic’ and means they are likely to leave the profession when it is over, the report said.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic, international recruitment has plummeted, with the number of people joining the register from outside of Europe falling by 24% – although this does include including a three-month period at the start of the pandemic where numbers collapsed to almost zero.

The number of professionals on the NMC register from within Europe continues to fall. This is down to 30,331, a 3% since last year but a 20% drop from 38,024 in 2016-17 – the year of the Brexit vote.

RCN acting chief executive Pat Cullen said the report showed ‘there is trouble on the horizon’ because ‘the register is growing nowhere near enough to meet patient demand’ and ‘the situation will get worse when one fifth of the register retires in the next few years’.

Ms Cullen continued: ‘This doesn’t include those nursing staff planning to leave due to high stress, poor pay and benefits and a negative workplace culture. This is clearly a major risk for the quality and safety of patient care, which is only set to increase in demand.

‘The reasons why nursing staff are leaving the profession they love have yet to be addressed. Until they are, our profession, and the patients they care for, stand on the precipice of a crisis.’

In March this year, a Nursing in Practice survey found practice nurses feel undervalued for their work during the Covid-19 crisis and 35% are considering leaving the profession.