This site is intended for healthcare professionals only

More nurses left the NHS than joined up in past year

Written by: | Published:

44% of nurses blamed working conditions 44% of nurses blamed working conditions as their main reason for leaving the NHS

Nursing numbers continue to fall as the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) announced more nurses and midwives are leaving their register than joining.

Analysis data from the NMC register between 2012 and 2017, it was revealed that 20% more people left the NMC register in 2016-17 than joined – which is the first time this has happened in recent history.

READ MORE: More sick days taken than ever as nurses 'feel the strain' of budget limitations

Looking among UK national nurses – who make up 85% of the register – 45% more of the total left the register than joined in the same period, indicating an unprecedented number of nursing staff turning away from the NHS.

NMC chief executive Jackie Smith said: ‘At a time of increased pressure on the healthcare workforce to deliver quality patient care, we hope our data will provide evidence to support the government and employers to look in detail at how they can reverse this trend.’

With the exception of retiring nurses, the average age of those leaving the register has reduced steadily from an average of 55 years old in 2013 to 51 years in 2017, showing that rates of leaving are increasing across all age groups below 60 years of age. This is particularly noticeable for those aged under 40, according to the NMC.

READ MORE: Government may withdraw promise of 10,000 new student nurses, universities say

In a survey of departing nurses conducted by the NMC, 44% blamed working conditions, 28% cited a change in personal circumstances and 27% said a disillusionment with the quality of care provided to patients were their reasons for leaving.

Surveying EU nurses who have opted to leave in the past year, following a vote in favour of the UK leaving the EU in June 2016, the NMC said 32% had been encouraged by Brexit to look for work elsewhere in the world.

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) described the figures as ‘worrying’ as England is currently 3,500 midwives short. Policy director Jon Skewes said: ‘It is important to know what is driving this reduction.

READ MORE: 'Bitter disappointment' as MPs vote to keep the pay cap

‘I have no doubt that the incredible pressures midwives are under due to increasing demands on services are a factor here. This combined with years of pay freezes and pay restraint has left our health professionals demoralised and disillusioned, and it is no surprise many are leaving.’

NHS Improvement is currently working with the Department of Health on a retention programme hoping to address why NHS staff are leaving and keep departure figures down.

READ MORE: Retention project kicks off as NHS losing nurses at 'alarming rate'

A Department of Health spokesperson said: ‘We are making sure we have the nurses we need to continue delivering world-class patient care — that's why there are almost 13,100 more on our wards since May 2010 and 52,000 in training.

‘We also know we need to retain our excellent nurses and last week we launched a national programme to ensure nurses have the support they need to continue their vital work.’

What do you think? Leave a comment below or tweet your views to @IndyNurseMag

This material is protected by MA Healthcare Ltd copyright.
See Terms and Conditions.



Please view our Terms and Conditions before leaving a comment.

Change the CAPTCHA codeSpeak the CAPTCHA code

Read a free issue from Practice Nursing

Register to read a free issue from our sister publication, Practice Nursing.

Including articles on asthma, diabetes and more. Read your copy.


Sign up to the newsletter


Independent Nurse is the professional resource for primary care and community nurses, providing clinical articles for practice nurses and prescribers.


Subscribe to our newsletter and stay up to date with the latest nursing news.

Stay Connected

Stay social with Independent Nurse by following us on Twitter, liking us on Facebook or connecting on LinkedIn.


Need access to some of our older articles? You can view our archive, or alternatively contact us.

Contact Us

MA Healthcare Ltd.
St Jude's Church, Dulwich Road
London, SE24 0PB

Tel: +44 (0)20 7738 5454
Registered in England and Wales No. 01878373

Meet the team


Find out how to contribute to Independent Nurse here.