Overall increase in nurses and midwives masks 'severe workforce instability'

7 Nov 2018

RCN responds to NMC figures showing the number of UK nurses and midwives registering for the first time is falling.

workforce nurses

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has released figures showing the number of nurses and midwives registered to work in the UK has increased by almost 4,000 in the past 12 months. At the end of September there were 693,618 people on the NMC register.

However, the figures reveal that the number of UK nurses and midwives joining the register for the first time has fallen, down from 24,204 in the year to September 2017 to 22,170 in the year to September 2018. That’s a drop of 2,034 even before the removal of the student bursary in England has taken effect. 

The number of EU nurses and midwives registered to work in the UK has also fallen by 2,385 in the past year. 

RCN Deputy Director of Nursing Stephanie Aiken said: “Despite the alarming number of vacancies for registered nurses, and increasing gaps in nursing rotas, the number of newly registered nurses is falling, not rising - with the impact of the withdrawal of funding for nursing students in England two years ago still to come. Our European colleagues are also continuing to leave the UK rather than face post-Brexit uncertainty.

“Just one day after a coalition of experts showed Brexit could leave the UK short of 51,000 nurses, we get confirmation that even more EU nurses left in the last year. Meanwhile, fewer than 900 signed up to work in the UK compared to 10,000 only two years ago, putting more pressure on services that have come to rely on European nursing staff."

The figures show that fewer UK nurses and midwives left the NMC register in the last year compared to the 12 months before. However, the increase in the number of international nurses and midwives joining the register suggests employers are looking further afield to fill staffing gaps. 

"It is imperative that workforce planning delivers a sustainable nursing workforce in the UK with tens of thousands more registered nurses joining, rather than an over reliance on an ageing workforce choosing not to leave, " Stephanie added. 

"Following the bursary removal two years ago in England, the number of students accepted onto university nursing courses has fallen, which may result in fewer UK nurses in future.

"The hope of increasing student numbers by scrapping the bursary has failed conclusively. If we are to encourage more people into nursing, the Department of Health in England, like health departments in the other countries of the UK, needs to provide financial support and put a minimum of £1bn a year back into nurse education - the future of patient care is at stake.”

The RCN launched a campaign earlier this week, calling for the Government to prioritise funding for nursing higher education in England. Find out more


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