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NMC data exposes nursing retention crisis, says RCN

Almost 27,000 people left the register in the past year, with more than half of those leaving earlier than planned, citing burnout, workload and concerns over care quality.

Of the 26,755 professionals who left the register in the 12 months to March 2023, more than half (52%) did so earlier than planned, with almost a quarter leaving ‘much earlier’ than they’d expected to. Most said they were unlikely to return to nursing or midwifery, including younger leavers.

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Results from an NMC leavers survey found that workplace factors, including burnout, lack of colleague support, concern about the quality of care for the public, workload and staffing, were frequently cited as reasons for leaving.

 ‘These figures bear out our concerns over the failure to retain experienced staff. Thousands of nurses are leaving the profession early citing burnout, physical or mental health, and concerns about the quality of people’s care,’ said RCN General Secretary and Chief Executive Pat Cullen.

The data also shows a rise in internationally educated nurses joining the workforce. Of those new to the register, almost half (25,006) were internationally educated. In the context of a global nursing shortage, this is unsustainable and potentially unethical.

In total, the number of professionals on the register whose initial registration was outside the UK increased by 21,766 (15%) in the past year, with professionals educated around the world now accounting for one in five nurses, midwives and nursing associates who can practise in the UK.

‘With half of all new starters coming from overseas, it is clear the UK government's failure to deliver a domestic workforce plan is hitting home,’ added Ms Cullen.

‘While internationally educated nursing staff are a vital and valued part of the NHS, the overreliance on staff from overseas, including those countries with shortages of their own, is not sustainable.’