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Number of nurses and midwives leaving profession up 51% in four years

Between 2016 and 2017, 20% more people left the register than joined it, and among those first registered in the UK, the figure was 45%.

The number of nurses and midwives leaving the profession has risen 51% in just four years, with those under the age of retirement citing low pay and poor working conditions.

New figures from the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) show that for the first time in recent history more midwives and nurses are leaving the register than are joining, with homegrown UK nurses leaving in the largest numbers.

Between 2016 and 2017, 20% more people left the register than joined it, and among those first registered in the UK, the figure was 45%.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) called on the Government to scrap the pay cap as a matter of urgency to stem the numbers going.

The data shows that, following yearly rises since 2013 in the numbers on the register, there was a drop in 2016/17 of 1,783 to 690,773.

From April to May this year, there has been a more dramatic fall, with a further 3,264 workers leaving the profession.

The overall number of leavers – which includes UK, overseas and EU registrants – has increased from 23,087 in 2012/13 to 34,941 in 2016/17.

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(Peter Byrne/PA)

Leavers among those first registered in the UK – who make up 85% of the entire register – jumped from 19,819 in 2012/2013 to 29,434 in 2016/2017.

Saffron Cordery, director of policy and strategy at NHS Providers, said: “These figures provide further evidence of the severe workforce problems NHS trusts face.

“This goes beyond the concerns over Brexit – worrying though they are.

“The reduction in numbers is most pronounced among UK registrants. And it is particularly disappointing to see so many of our younger nurses and midwives choosing to leave.”

She said a new staff retention programme will offer support to those NHS trusts with the highest leaving rates.

“However, until we address the underlying issues driving retention problems, including the pay cap and the unsustainable workplace pressures, these approaches will only have a limited impact.”

The data also shows that the number of EU workers (who make up 5% of the register) leaving has increased from 1,173 in 2012/2013 to 3,081 in 2016/2017.

Leavers from overseas have risen from 2,095 in 2012/2013 to 2,426 in 2016/2017.

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(David Jones/PA)

The data also showed a rise in the number of nurses and midwives below retirement age leaving the profession.

In 2016/17, 7,760 of those going were aged 56 to 60, while there were 4,789 leavers aged 51 to 55 – almost double the figure for 2012/13.

The number of leavers in the 21 to 30 age group also almost doubled from 1,510 to 2,901.

Rising numbers of staff left for similar jobs abroad, with 4,153 “verification requests” made in 2016/17.

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(Anthony Devlin/PA)

Of 4,544 people surveyed in the last year on reasons for leaving, just under half said they were not retiring.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “We are making sure we have the nurses we need to continue delivering world-class patient care – that’s why there are almost 13,100 more on our wards since May 2010 and 52,000 in training.

“We also know we need to retain our excellent nurses and earlier this week we launched a national programme to ensure nurses have the support they need to continue their vital work.”

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