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Nurse numbers rise ‘not enough’



The number of nurses, midwives and nursing associates grew by 7,909 to reach 724,516 between 1 April and 30 September, NMC figures have shown.

However, nursing groups have warned that this 1.1% rise is not enough to fill existing gaps and also that the long-term impact of Covid-19 on workforce is not yet known.

RCN chief executive Dame Donna Kinnair said: ‘The growth we are seeing is not even close to enough to fill existing gaps. The additional 6,000 nurses are welcome but that still leaves tens of thousands of unfilled roles in the UK.

‘This is even more worrying when we know a third are considering their future in this profession, and those who remain are suffering burn out and stress.’

The analysis shows that the number of nurses on the NMC permanent register has increase by 5,959 (0.9%), while the number of midwives has risen by 937 (2.5%).

There were also 2,707 nursing associates registered to work in England by the end of September – a jump of 1,014 (59.9 percent) since March 2020.

Although the number of professionals from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) jumped by 1.8% (by 1,557 to 85,873), this is substantially smaller than in the same period last year.

From April to September 2019, an average of 765 healthcare professionals from outside the EEA joined the NMC register each month, but this fell to 351 during the same period this year – with a low point of just five in June.

The NMC said the reduction is ‘primarily due’ to the Covid-19 pandemic restricting ‘the movement of people’ and the ‘ability to run overseas nursing and midwifery tests’.

The decline of professionals joining from within the EEA continues to fall, from 31,285 to 30,895, a reduction of 1.6%.

NMC chief executive Andrea Sutcliffe said the ‘growth in our permanent register’ is ‘good news’ but warned against complacency.

She continued: ‘Nurses, midwives and nursing associates are at the heart of the UK response to Covid-19 and the long-term impact on their future recruitment and retention is as yet unknown.’

Latest NHS vacancy figures have shown there were 37,821 full-time equivalent unfilled nursing posts, as of June 2020.