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Work-life balance a growing factor in nursing exodus, NHS figures show

Work-life balance a growing factor in nursing exodus, NHS figures show

An increasing number of nurses are leaving the NHS in England due to poor work-life balance and a lack of flexibility, data has suggested.

Figures within NHS England’s latest submission to the NHS pay review body show a rising trend across a three-year period in both work-life balance and flexibility being reported as a reason for registered nurses leaving the service.

The figures are based on what NHS England said was ‘unpublished reporting from ESR data’ and showed that a total of 35,207 registered nurses left the NHS in 2022/23, compared with 38,115 in 2021/22 and 32,603 in 2020/21.

From 2020/21 to 2022/23, the data suggests the number of registered nurses who left the NHS because of work-life balance had increased by 38%.

In 2020/21, a total of 4,216 registered nurses left the NHS with the reported reason of work-life balance. The figure rose to 5,783 a year later, and again to 5,833 in 2022/23.

Similarly, flexibility was cited as the reason for departure by 598 registered nurses in 2020/21, with the figure rising to 742 and 802 in 2021/22 and 2022/23 respectively – a 34% increase over three years.

The number of nurses leaving the NHS and reporting pay and reward was also significant, with 4,516 registered nurses citing this as a reason in 2022/23. This was down slightly from 4,786 in 2021/22, but up from 3,644 in 2020/21.

Another reason for leaving showing an incremental rise over the three-year period was incompatibility of working relationships, with 253 reports in 2020/21, 331 in 2021/22 and 341 in 2022/23 – an increase of 35% over the time period.

Among registered nurses, 1,021 registered nurses cited progression/continuing professional development as the reason for leaving in 2022/23 – down from 1,212 in 2021/22.

Last month, a representative from the Royal College of Nursing told the UK Covid-19 inquiry that failure to tackle nurse shortages and burnout represents ‘a serious risk to the country’s ability to robustly tackle future pandemics’.

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