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NMC reveals 27% more nurses leaving the register than joining

New figures published by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) today have shown that there were 1,678 fewer nurses and midwives on their register in September 2017, compared to September 2016.

A total of 35,363 nurses and midwives left the register between October 2016 and September 2017, with just 27,786 joining in the same time period, equating to 27% more people leaving the register than joining.

Of those leaving the profession over the last 12 months, 9% are UK graduates, with 29,019 people leaving the register in the period between October 2016 to September 2017. But the figures reveal that it’s the number of nurses and midwives from Europe leaving the register that has increased the most, with 67% leaving in the previous 12 months.

This was compounded by a dramatic reduction in the number of those joining the register, with 89% fewer nurses and midwives from Europe joining the register in October 2016 to September 2017, compared to the 12 months prior.

The Brexit effect

How the sharp drop in EU nurses is compounding the UK's nursing shortage

The figures follow on from a King’s Fund analysis in October, which found the number of nurses and health visitors in the NHS had fallen year-on-year for the first time in four years.

Jackie Smith, chief executive and registrar of the NMC, said the data made it clear that the loss of nurses is being driven by both UK and European registrants.

She said: ‘These figures continue to highlight the major challenges faced by the UK’s health and care sectors around the recruitment and retention of staff. Nurses and midwives work incredibly hard in very difficult circumstances. Those responsible for workforce matters will no doubt respond to what these trends are showing.’

Janet Davies, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, described the figures as a ‘double whammy’ for the NHS and patients.

‘Not only has the number of UK homegrown nurses quitting the profession gone up, at the same time, significant numbers of the EU-trained nurses on whom the health service depends are leaving, and there’s also been a huge drop in nursing staff coming to work here from EU countries. All of this is happening while the NHS is short of at least 40,000 nurses,’ she said.

‘Theresa May has left it far too late to send out the message that professionals working here are desperately needed, and that she will give them priority in the Brexit negotiations. It is no surprise that, for as long as the Prime Minister fails to do this, many feel they have no choice but to leave’.

Siva Anandaciva, chief analyst at the King’s Fund, claimed that a new workforce strategy was ‘desperately needed’.

He said: ‘While the government’s recent commitment to increase nursing training places is welcome, training nurses takes many years and will not meet the short term needs of the NHS or its patients. This will also not address the long-standing concerns about work-life balance, morale and pay that could be driving away potential nurse trainees. A new workforce strategy is desperately needed.’