Since the vote to leave the European Union (EU), political and public attention has been on the potential impact of this decision on nurses and midwives from the EU. We recently published figures that showed there had been a 96% drop in the number of EU nurses joining the register. However the subsequent coverage and analysis of this data has masked a variety of important domestic trends.
Our figures released today show that for the first time in recent years, more nurses and midwives are leaving our register than joining, with a noticeable increase in the number of UK trained nurses leaving our register.
We are also seeing a significant increase in the number of nurses and midwives of non-retirement age leaving the profession. While it is widely acknowledged that the nursing and midwifery profession is an ageing workforce, what is of particular alarm is that the rate of leaving is increasing among nurses and midwives under the age of 40.
The pressures that are facing health professionals across the UK health care sector are reflected in the early insight we have received from those who have left our register. Those who hadn't retired listed staffing levels and their disillusionment of the care provided to patients as primary reasons for leaving the profession.
We know that nurses and midwives are leaving our register, but where are they going? Data shows that many nurses and midwives are leaving the UK to continue their careers abroad with Australia, the US and the Republic of Ireland being the favoured destinations. Halting this trend is not the role of the NMC but others may now need to ask what can be done to encourage nurses and midwives to deliver care in Birmingham rather than heading to Brisbane.
These are emerging trends not a definitive pattern, our figures are not being released to apportion blame but to inform. All of us in the health and care system know of the significant pressures facing services and staff; our mission is to support them and guarantee public safety.
As a professional regulator it is not our job to set staffing levels and ultimately this is the responsibility of health and care providers. But we hope that these figures provide evidence to support government and employers to look in detail at how they can reverse these trends.
Jackie Smith Chief Executive and Registrar of the Nursing Midwifery Council