Nursing and midwifery numbers at all-time high but workforce pressures remain, finds NMC

8 May 2019

Around 8,000 more nurses, midwives and nursing associates are now registered to work in the UK compared to 12 months ago according to latest figures published today (Wednesday 8 May) by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).

At a time when every report on the health and care workforce shines a spotlight on the shortfall of nursing and midwifery professionals needed to deliver the best, safest care for people; ‘The NMC Register' data report explores the numbers of nurses, midwives and nursing associates joining and leaving the register between 1 April 2018 and 31 March 2019.

The data reveals a 126 percent leap in the number of nurses and midwives from outside of the EU registering to work in the UK for the first time – rising from 2,720 last year to 6,157 this year. This follows a number of changes made by the NMC to streamline its systems and better support those applicants who meet its high standards, through the registration process.

Figures also show an overall increase of more than 5,000 UK trained nurses, midwives and, in England only, nursing associates, driven by an increase of 1,567 joining the register for the first time and a decrease in those leaving.

The number of nursing and midwifery professionals from the EU continues to decline. Following a peak of 38,024 in March 2017, the number has reduced to 33,035 this year – a 13 percent drop (nearly 5,000) over two years.

The number of midwives registered to work in the UK continues to increase, rising from 35,830 in 2018 to 36,916 in 2019.

This year the NMC asked over 11,000 people who left its register over a six month period in 2018 the reasons why they left. Findings from that survey show that the top reason for leaving was retirement, however almost a third (1,050) of the 3,504 respondents cited too much pressure leading to stress and/or poor mental health as a top reason for leaving.

Elsewhere in the survey findings, 51 percent (92) of those nurses and midwives from within the EU who left the register and responded to the survey, stated Brexit as a reason for encouraging them to consider working outside the UK.

While 20 percent (630) of the 3,210 nurses and midwives who trained in the UK and responded to the survey said they were disillusioned by the quality of the care provided to patients.

When looking at the age profile of the register, the under 30 age group is growing, so too is the 51 and over age group. While the proportion of people on our register in the 31–50 age group is decreasing.

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

“Nurses, midwives and nursing associates make an enormous contribution to the health and wellbeing of millions of people each year so I’m delighted to see such an increase in those joining our register.

“It’s encouraging to know this is being driven by both UK trained and overseas professionals. It’s clear the changes we’ve introduced – to make it more straightforward for those people with the right skills and knowledge to come and work here from abroad – are making a real difference.

“However, we only have to look at the well documented concerns around high vacancy and turnover rates that exist right across health and social care to know there’s a long way to go before we have all the people we need to ensure the best and safest care for everyone.

“And while there has been a drop in the number of people leaving the register, our survey fires yet another warning shot – that the pressures nurses and midwives face are real and must be taken seriously if we are to properly attract, support and retain the workforce that we need now, and for the future.”

Read the full report.