Nursing and midwifery register grows amid pressure on services

Published on 16 November 2021

See the latest data from our register

  • Mid-year report shows that NMC register of nurses, midwives and nursing associates has grown by 13,011 to 744,929.
  • A big driver of growth is more than 10,600 professionals from outside Europe joining the register between April and September.
  • There’s been an overall increase in people leaving the register, now at the highest level for the period since 2017.

The number of nurses and midwives eligible to practise in the UK, and nursing associates who can practise in England, continues to rise. This is amid severe pressure on health and care services heading toward winter.

The NMC’s mid-year registration data report shows that in the six months to 30 September 2021, the register grew from 731,918 professionals to 744,929. That’s an increase of 13,011 or 1.8 percent.

This includes 11,331 more nurses across the UK. There are 1,156 more nursing associates, who bridge the gap between nurses and health and care assistants in England only. There are also 594 more midwives.

However, the overall number of people leaving the professions has increased – for the first time in several years. Between April and September, a total of 13,945 people left, compared to 11,020 in the same period in 2020. The last time that the total number of leavers was higher for the same period was in 2017.

The number of people joining the register for the first time was 24,036. Of these, 10,642 were from outside the European Economic Area (EEA). This compares to 2,107 during the same period last year, when the pandemic caused a drop in international joiners. There were 4,585 new joiners from outside the EEA in the six months to September 2019, before the pandemic.

Of the newly registered international professionals, 4,436 trained in India and 3,040 trained in the Philippines. Professionals from these two countries now account for almost 10 percent of nursing and midwifery professionals who can practise in the UK.

The number of registered professionals from the UK has also increased, but at a slower rate than before. That’s because the number of UK joiners was 13,078 between April and September, down from 14,410 in the same period last year. And 11,668 people from the UK left, up from 9,339.

Meanwhile there’s been higher growth in the number of people registered in the lower age ranges than in the upper ranges. The number aged 40 and under increased by 3.8 percent to a total of 300,791. And the number of people at retirement age, over 55, grew by 2.3 percent to a total of 158,061.

Andrea Sutcliffe, Chief Executive and Registrar at the NMC, said:

“Health and care services are facing severe pressures as we head into winter. While nursing and midwifery professionals will do all they can to care for people, we know they are exhausted from coping with the impact of the pandemic.

“In these circumstances, I’m glad our latest registration data shows an increase in the numbers of nurses, midwives and nursing associates but we can’t be complacent. In the face of rising needs across the UK there are worrying signs this pace of growth won’t meet demand.

“Professionals from outside Europe are making an increasingly big contribution to the growth of our register. They make a vital and welcome difference to people’s health and wellbeing. But it’s concerning that the domestic picture is one of slowing growth, with fewer people from the UK joining the register, and more leaving.

“This highlights the need for national and local leaders to collaborate on a sustainable strategy to attract, support and retain nurses, midwives and nursing associates across health and social care. 

“Even more urgently, we all need to work together to tackle the physical and mental pressure the pandemic is bringing to bear on the professions. If we don’t, I’m afraid we may see more nursing and midwifery professionals leave the register in the future.”


Further background

  1. The stated number of additional nurses, midwives and nursing associates on the register won’t add up to the total increase of 13,011 exactly. This is because the number of dual registrants (people registered as both a nurse and midwife) has fallen by 70.
  2. The nursing associate role was introduced in 2019 in England only. It bridges the gap between registered nurses, and health and care assistants.
  3. Our register shows the number of professionals eligible to practise. Not everyone on our permanent register will currently be working.
  4. The number of joiners, leavers and total people registered won’t add up exactly. That’s because the joiners’ data only includes people joining the register for the first time. It doesn’t include people who re-joined after a break from practising.
  5. Our permanent register changes every day and can vary considerably from the start of the month to the end of the month. Therefore, our data only offers a snapshot in time. This report gives a snapshot of our register on 30 September 2021.

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