Record number of nurses, midwives and nursing associates

Published on 24 May 2023

See the latest data from our register

  • Annual data shows the NMC register of nurses, midwives and nursing associates has grown by 30,351 to a record 788,638 (1.2 percent of the estimated population).
  • There were a record 52,148 new joiners last year, almost half of whom are internationally educated.
  • The number of professionals leaving the register fell slightly but research indicates more than half left sooner than planned and most don’t plan to return.
  • Five compounding workforce pressures frequently influenced decisions to leave, including concerns about the quality of people’s care.

The number of nurses, midwives and nursing associates registered to practise in the UK has grown to a record total of 788,638. This means the NMC register is now equivalent to 1.2 percent of the estimated UK population. 

Underlying this strong growth, 2022–2023 saw the highest number of new joiners to the NMC’s register in a single year – 52,148. Almost half (25,006) were internationally educated, while the number of UK educated joiners rose by 8.5 percent to more than 27,142. 

With international recruitment continuing at a significant rate, professionals educated around the world now account for one in five nurses, midwives and nursing associates who can practise in the UK. 

Most international joiners are from outside Europe and tend to be more ethnically diverse than the register they’re joining. UK joiners are also becoming more ethnically diverse – almost a third of last year’s domestically educated joiners are from Black and minority ethnic backgrounds. 

The increasing ethnic diversity of new nurses, midwives and nursing associates, whether educated at home or abroad, means the profile of the NMC register is changing. Over the past year the proportion of all registered professionals who are from Black and minority ethnic backgrounds has risen to 27.7 percent – more than a quarter of the register. 

Meanwhile the number of people leaving the professions fell slightly last year, to just under 27,000. However, the NMC’s research raises concerns for employers and leaders across health and care to tackle in their retention strategies. 

First, more than half (52.1 percent) of those who left the register did so earlier than planned, with almost a quarter leaving much earlier than they’d expected to. And most said they were unlikely to return to the professions, including younger leavers. 

Secondly, there were five compounding workplace factors that frequently influenced people’s decisions to leave: burnout or exhaustion; lack of support from colleagues; concerns about the quality of people’s care; workload; and staffing levels. 

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

“At a time of rising demand for health and care services, it’s welcome news that our register has grown to a record level, due to an increase in domestically educated joiners together with the ongoing surge in international recruitment. 

“These joiners are more ethnically diverse than ever. This matters because NHS research in England shows that Black and minority ethnic staff are more likely to experience harassment, bullying or abuse. There’s also clear evidence that discrimination impacts on the quality of care professionals give, leading to worse health outcomes for people. Therefore it’s more important than ever for employers to foster inclusive cultures, free of the racism and discrimination that profoundly affect people from minority ethnic communities. 

“While recruitment remains strong, there are clear warnings about the workplace pressures driving people away from the professions. Many are leaving the register earlier than planned because of burnout or exhaustion, lack of support from colleagues, concerns about the quality of people’s care, workload and staffing levels.   

“Our insight can support nursing and midwifery leaders across health and social care to focus on the right issues in their retention strategies. Addressing those issues must be a collaborative effort aimed at improving staff wellbeing and retention, for the benefit of everyone using services.” 

Further background 

  • Read the full UK report, four country specific reports and leavers' survey report
  • 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 30,351 exactly. This is because a fourth registration type, ‘dual registrants’ (people registered as both a nurse and midwife) has fallen by 218.
  • 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 reference to the estimated UK population is based on published ONS data
  • In November 2022, NHS England, in partnership with NHS Confederation and the NMC, published a new resource that supports nursing and midwifery professionals working in the NHS to combat racism.

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