The number of nurses registered to work in the UK has fallen by 6.5% over the past 12 months, according to the latest NMC data.
At the end of September 2017, there were 36,259 nurses from the EU on the NMC register. But this number fell to 33,874 by the end of September 2018.
Nurses joining the register from the EU over the last 12 months also fell, with 219 fewer nurses joining over the 12 months to 30 September 2018. It follows a drop of over 9,000 the year before.
But the total number of nurses and midwives on the register has increased to a five-year high of 693,618, helped by an increase in the number of UK nurses, up by almost 3,500.
It was backed up by a 2,808 increase in non-EU nurses, taking the total number of non-EU nurses to a five-year high of over 70,000.
The NMC data also reveals some good news for mental health nursing, with numbers rising for the first time since 2014. An increase of 324 nurses working in this field was bettered only by children’s nursing, which gained 1,200 nurses over the last 12 months.
Interim NMC chief executive Sue Killen said the numbers ‘painted an improving picture’, but cautioned that the impact of the bursary removal has not yet been felt.
She said: ‘We’re seeing increasing numbers of home grown nurses and midwives, while it’s clear that improvements to the way we register people from outside the EU are making a real difference to the numbers ready and able to deliver the very best care to people across the UK.
‘Despite the overall increase in numbers it remains difficult to predict what will happen in the coming years. That’s because it’s unlikely that we’ve see the full impact of the decision in 2017 to remove the bursary for students.
‘It also remains essential that there is proper investment in the continuing professional development of nurses and midwives if we are to keep hold of the health and care sector’s most vital asset.’