Nursing and midwifery workforce numbers continue to grow as concern around the long term impact of Covid-19 remains

Published on 12 November 2020

Read our mid-year registration figures

Latest mid-year figures out today (Thursday 12 November) from the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) reveal the number of nurses, midwives and nursing associates on its permanent register has grown by 7,909 to 724,516 between 1 April and 30 September - an increase of 1.1 percent.  

Following on from the NMC’s annual registration data report and leavers’ survey published over the summer, today’s analysis shows total numbers of nurses on the permanent register have increased by 5,949 (0.9 percent) while the number of midwives has risen by 937 (2.5 percent). At the end of September this year there were also 2,707 nursing associates registered to work in England - a jump of 1,014 (59.9 percent) since March 2020.

Supported by an increase in those from the UK joining and staying on the permanent register, domestic growth is clear with the number of professionals trained in the UK and registered to practise climbing from 600,906 to 607,748 - up 6,842 (1.1 percent) in a six-month period.  

For the same period, the number of professionals from outside the EEA has also increased by 1,557 to 85,873 - a rise of 1.8 percent - but is substantially smaller than in recent years and in comparison to the same period in 2019. This is primarily due to protective measures arising from the coronavirus pandemic having a significant effect on the movement of people from outside the UK as well as temporarily restricting the ability to run overseas nursing and midwifery tests.

The impact of these measures is particularly evident from the average number of people joining the permanent register each month from outside the EEA. From April to September 2019, an average of 765 overseas professionals joined each month. But from April to September 2020 the average was just 351. In June 2020, just five professionals joined from outside the EEA.

While the mid-year data reveals fewer people leaving the permanent register in total - 11,615 compared to 13,479 during the same period last year - it also highlights a continuing decline in professionals on the permanent register from within the EEA. This number has reduced by a further 490 from 31,385 to 30,895 (-1.6 percent) between 1 April and 30 September.

Figures also show more professionals choosing to stay on the permanent register from the age of 56 with people in that category rising by 4,954 (3.4 percent) to a total of 150,531. At the same time, the number of those aged 21 to 40 has grown by 4,837 (1.7 percent) to a total of 284,567.

The numbers of nurses in all four fields of practice increased between 1 April and 30 September. Proportionally, the biggest rise has been seen in the number of children’s nurses - growing from 52,286 to 53,539 (2.4 percent).

The mid-year registration data report also includes a separate section setting out figures from the NMC’s Covid-19 temporary register. At the end of September this year there were 12,756 former nurses, midwives and overseas professionals registered. Since the NMC’s overseas test centres reopened in July, many professionals who trained and qualified from outside the UK have successfully moved onto the permanent register.

Commenting on the mid-year registration figures, Andrea Sutcliffe CBE, Chief Executive and Registrar at the NMC, said:

“Over the past few months, we’ve needed our dedicated nurses, midwives and nursing associates like never before. Thanks to their expertise and commitment, nursing and midwifery professionals working in health and care settings across all four countries of the UK are proving how strong they can be in the face of adversity.

“During an unprecedented time when the coronavirus pandemic brought the flow of professionals from overseas to a short-term standstill, we may have expected overall growth to slow.

“It’s therefore good news to see the growth in our permanent register at this mid-year point is broadly consistent with the same period last year - and even more encouraging to see increases in people from the UK choosing to join and stay.

“However, we cannot be complacent. Nurses, midwives and nursing associates are at the heart of the UK response to Covid-19 and the long term impact on their future recruitment and retention is as yet unknown.

“Together, we must do all we can to nurture, protect and support nurses, midwives and nursing associates so they choose to stay once the Covid-19 crisis has passed. That way our professionals can continue the vital role they have in providing the safe, kind and effective nursing and midwifery care and support the public will need more than ever.”

Further background

See full copies of the reports and data tables.

You can read more about our annual registration data report and leavers’ survey which was published over the summer.

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