Nursing and midwifery register grows but so does number of people leaving

Published on 18 May 2022

Our annual data report

  • Our Annual data report shows that the NMC register of nurses, midwives and nursing associates has grown by 26,403 to 758,303.
  • This includes almost 705,000 nurses, more than 40,000 midwives and nearly 7,000 nursing associates.
  • The number of people leaving the register has risen by 3,199 to 27,133 – having fallen steadily over recent years.
  • The number of people joining the register for the first time has also risen, by 13,919 to 48,436. Almost half of first-time joiners trained outside the UK.

The number of nursing and midwifery professionals registered to practise in the UK has grown to more than 758,000. But the number of people leaving the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) register has also started to rise.

A total of 27,133 professionals left the NMC register in 2021–2022. That’s 13 percent more than the year before, and starts to reverse a downward trend in leavers over the recent years.

We asked people why they left. Many said their main reasons included too much pressure, and poor workplace culture. And more than a third of respondents said the Covid-19 pandemic influenced their decision to leave. Some of those said they were worried about their health, while others struggled with increased workloads and a lack of staff.

While the number of people leaving the register increased, there was also a welcome rise in people joining for the first time. In total there were 48,436 joiners, up from 34,517 the previous year and 38,317 in 2019–2020.

Partly this reflects the pandemic’s impact. Travel restrictions meant the number of internationally trained joiners fell sharply in 2020–2021. Now we’ve seen a significant increase, with 23,408 internationally trained professionals (66 percent of whom trained in India or the Philippines) joining over the past year.

The number of UK-trained joiners increased only marginally, from 24,555 in 2020–2021 to 25,028 last year. This led to a near even split between domestic and internationally trained new professionals over the past year.

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

“Our register is at the highest level ever. This is good news considering all the pressures of the last two years. But a closer look at our data reveals some warning signs.

“The total number of people leaving the register has risen, after a steady and welcome fall over the previous four years. Those who left shared troubling stories about the pressure they’ve had to bear during the pandemic. A focus on retention as well as attracting new recruits needs to be part of a sustainable workforce plan to meet rising demands for health and care services.

“Another note of caution is that growth of the workforce has become more reliant on internationally trained professionals joining our register. These professionals make a welcome and vital contribution to our nation’s health and wellbeing. But we can’t take them for granted. Two years ago, we felt the pandemic’s impact on global travel; the number of international joiners to our register fell sharply. A future pandemic or other global disruption could see history repeat itself, but with an even bigger impact on the overall growth of the register. We also need to make sure that we are supporting, valuing and rewarding our internationally trained joiners so their careers can thrive in the UK.

“I very much hope our data will help support long-term sustainable workforce planning in health and care services across the UK, for the benefit of our professionals and the public we all serve.”

The UK report and four country specific reports can all be found on our website.


Further background

  • Our register shows the number of professionals eligible to practise. Not everyone on our permanent register will currently be working.
  • The nursing associate role was introduced in 2019 in England only. It bridges the gap between registered nurses, and health and care assistants.
  • The number of additional nurses, midwives and nursing associates on the register won’t add up to the total increase of 26,403 exactly. This is because a fourth registration type, ‘dual registrants’ (people registered as both a nurse and midwife) has fallen by 224.
  • 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.
  • 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 31 March 2022.

For further media enquiries, please contact the NMC press office via email media@nmc-uk.org.


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