Record 808,488 nurses, midwives and nursing associates in the UK

Published on 30 November 2023

See the latest data from our register

There are a record 808,488 nurses, midwives and nursing associates eligible to practise in the UK. That’s 19,857 (2.5 percent) more registered professionals than just six months ago and 114,874 (16.6 percent) more than in September 2018.

There were 30,103 new joiners to our register in the six months to September. That’s 27.7 percent higher than in the same period in 2022 (23,565), and more than twice as many as in the same period five years ago (April to September 2018: 14,311 joiners).

Just over half (15,067) of these new joiners were educated in the UK. It is the highest number of domestic joiners ever in the first half of a financial year, and nearly 25 percent higher than in the same period last year (12,104). This follows the well reported increase in students accepted onto nursing programmes in 2020, the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic.

There were almost exactly as many international joiners – 15,036 – which reflects the importance of overseas recruitment in all four nations. These include 345 international midwives, which compares to 115 who joined in the same period last year and just 27 in the six months to September 2018. This follows a recent NHS recruitment drive in England – the Maternity International Recruitment Programme.

There has been an acceleration in the overall number of joiners who were educated in India – 7,223 in the last six months, compared to 4,849 between April and September last year, which is a 49 percent rise for the period. This means India moves further ahead as the biggest single source of international recruitment to the UK workforce.

NMC data show upward trends in joiners from some ‘red list’ countries, where active recruitment is prohibited by the UK Government’s code of practice. This includes significant proportional rises in joiners from Ghana and Zambia. There also remain a steadily high number of joiners from Nigeria.

With more international professionals joining the register, and with UK joiners becoming more ethnically diverse (a quarter of the UK joiners since April are from Black and minority ethnic backgrounds), the ethnic profile of the register continues to change. The proportion of all registered professionals from Black and minority ethnic backgrounds is now 29.1 percent – that’s 1.4 percentage points higher than in April, and 10 higher than in 2018.

With a significant number of new joiners, there is also a slow but steady change in the age profile of the register. The total proportion of professionals aged 21-40 is now 43.5 percent, compared to 42.7 percent just six months ago, and 37.7 percent in September 2018.

The register’s retention rate remains steady. A total of 13,308 professionals have left since April – equivalent to 1.7 percent of the register. In the same period last year, 13,164 people left, which was 1.7 percent of the register. Two percent of the register (13,818) left in the six months to September 2018.

Andrea Sutcliffe, Chief Executive and Registrar at the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), said:

“Strong recruitment and steady retention have taken our register of nurses, midwives and nursing associates to another record high. This is very encouraging given the well-publicised pressure on health and care services at a time of rising demand for care.

“Our register is now showing fifty-fifty recruitment between UK and internationally educated nursing and midwifery professionals. All these professionals make a vital and welcome contribution to people’s health and wellbeing.

“However, it’s important that employers continue to be mindful of the Government’s ethical recruitment code, since we’re seeing many joiners from ‘red list’ countries. People from across the world want to come and work in the UK. However, employers must not undermine health systems in countries with the most pressing workforce challenges through active recruitment.”

Further background

  • Read the full UK report, four country specific reports, and data tables here.
  • 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 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.
  • UCAS data showing the number of accepted applicants onto nursing programmes can be found here.
  • The rise in UK educated joiners in April to September 2023 is also partly because since 2020, the NMC has clarified for education institutions that newly qualified professionals can join the register once they’ve finished their programmes, for example, after three academic years rather than waiting until the end of three calendar years.
  • 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 2023.
  • The NMC is not responsible for recruitment. The Department of Health and Social Care and Scottish Government codes of practice for the international recruitment of health and social care personnel prohibits active recruitment from ‘red list’ countries designated by the World Health Organisation. The codes do not prevent individual health workers from ‘red list’ countries from seeking employment independently, but employers should not be actively recruiting from those countries.
  • Where we use the terms ‘recruitment and retention’ we are referring to people joining our register for the first time, or leaving it.
  • International professionals can share their registered UK address through NMC Online.

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