The number of EU nurses and midwives joining the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) register has fallen by 89% this year, while the number leaving has risen by worrying 67% compared to last year.
Last year 10,178 EU nurses and midwives joined the NMC register in September. By September this year, that has figure has fallen to a mere 1,107.
Similarly, the number of EU workers leaving has skyrocketed. From October 2015 – September 2016 2,435 nurses and midwives left the register. A year later, this has risen to 4,067 – an increase of almost 70%.
Jackie Smith, Chief Executive and Registrar of the NMC, 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.’
The new data comes after Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt was grilled by a Commons Select Committee on Tuesday about the effect of Brexit on the NHS workforce, particularly in terms of the recruitment of EU nationals.
Mr Hunt conceded that Brexit ‘will pose a number of challenges’, with the most immediate one being ‘in respect to the NHS staff from the EU.’
The increase in those leaving the NMC register, however, has not been confined to workers from the EU. The number of UK nationals leaving register also rose by around 10%, from 26,653 last year to just over 29,000 this year. There is now 27% more people leaving the NMC register than joining it.
‘It’s worrying that we are seeing a continuing rise in nurses and midwives leaving the register and our data is clear that this is being driven by both UK and EU registrants,’ said Jackie Smith.
Janet Davies, General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), said that it was ‘no surprise’ EU nurses were leaving the health service given the reality of Brexit and that ‘these alarming new figures represent a double whammy for the NHS and patients.’
RCN research estimates that there are over 40,000 unfilled vacancies in the NHS – equating to one in nine posts being unfilled.