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Nursing and midwifery numbers continue to grow against backdrop of ageing register

Tuesday 17 December 2019

Latest mid-year figures published by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) today (Tuesday 17 December) reveal the number of nurses, midwives and nursing associates on its register is at an all-time high of 706,252.

Following on from the NMC’s annual data report published earlier this year, the six month period between 1 April and 30 September has seen an overall increase to the register of 8,015 (1.15%) people – more than double that for the same period in 2018 when the register grew by 3,340 (0.48%) individuals.

Broken down by each professional role, the figures reveal the number of nurses on the register has grown by 6,669 (1.02%) while the number of midwives has grown by 339 (0.92%). At the end of September this year there were 1,488 nursing associates registered to work in England – up from 489 in March, following the opening of the register in January 2019.

The number of professionals trained in the UK and registered to work has risen from 591,894 to 596,906 – an increase of 5,012 (0.85%) – between 1 April and 30 September. This has been driven by an increase in those joining the register for the first time and fewer people leaving.

For the same period, there has also been a significant increase in the number of professionals from outside the EU / EEA on the register rising from 73,308 to 77,373 – an increase of 4,065 (5.5%).

While the overall number of people registered to work has continued to grow, the data does highlight the fall in the number of professionals coming from the EU / EEA, which declined a further 1,062 (-3.21%) from 33,035 to 31,973 between 1 April and 30 September.

The figures also confirm a distinct demographic trend – that the register is ageing. It now shows the number of people on the register approaching retirement age is growing quicker than the number of those under 30. From 1 April to 30 September, the number of those in the 61-65 age bracket grew by 2,220 (5.57%) compared to 1,659 (1.48%) in the 21-30 age group.

Finally, while the number of specialist nurses – including mental health, learning disability and children’s nurses – has not changed significantly over the last six months, demand in these areas continues to grow and it is concerning to see the number of learning disability nurses is still 1,000 fewer than four years ago.

Commenting on the mid-year registration figures, Andrea Sutcliffe CBE, Chief Executive and Registrar at the NMC, said:

“We know the incredible impact that nurses, midwives and nursing associates have in providing highly skilled and person-centred care for millions of people living across all four countries of the UK. I’m pleased to see such an increase of people on our register.

“It’s important we recognise the enormous contribution that nursing and midwifery professionals from overseas continue to make for people in the UK. It’s clear they are a vital part of our UK health and care workforce, and I’m glad to see the recent changes we’ve made to streamline our processes for those joining the register from outside the UK are making a real difference.

“But the reality is, even with this considerable mid-year growth, there are still serious shortages across the health and care sector – not least in specialist areas such as mental health and learning disabilities.

“With so many on our register nearing retirement age, it’s more important than ever that partners across the system work together to tackle the important issue of recruitment and retention of the essential nursing and midwifery workforce.”

Notes for editors

  1. Copies of our mid-year dataset together with individual four country reports for England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales are available on our Registration data reports page.
  2. Our previous data report, released May 2019, can be viewed on our website here.
  3. The nursing associate role was introduced in January 2019. Find out more about nursing associates.