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Government target of 50,000 new nurses needed as shortfall of nurses will impact adult social care

Nursing register reveals pressures of COVID-19

Growth in the number of new UK and international nurses has been hit by COVID-19, the nursing regulator has said in its latest annual nurse registration report, the NMC register.

The report states that over 15,000 more nurses, midwives and nursing associates are now registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) compared to March 2020.  The 2.1 per cent growth in the number of nurses takes the register to an overall total of 731,918. This includes 11,673 more nurses, 1,152 more midwives and 2,660 more nursing associates.

From within the UK, initial nurse registrations have increased by 8,421 (1.4 per cent) over the past twelve months, although the rate of growth has slowed compared with previous years.  

In terms of international recruitment, the report shows the impact the initial COVID-19 lockdown. Nurse registrations from within the EEA continued to fall, down to 30,331, a 3 per cent reduction since last year.

Those from outside of the European Economic Area (EEA) fell by 24 per cent, including a three-month period at the start of the pandemic where numbers collapsed to almost zero. Despite this, people from outside the EEA account for more than half (9,156) of the total growth of the register, with professionals trained in the Philippines (2,673) and India (4,360) continuing to make up the largest proportion of new international joiners to the UK register.

The number of people leaving the register is at its lowest in five years, with fewer than 24,000 (23,936) people leaving in 2020-21 compared to a peak of almost 35,000 (34,941) in 2016-17.

The NMC has also seen a rise in the number of professionals in the retirement age ranges on its register (6.2 per cent), suggesting that people may have stayed on to help tackle the pandemic. While this is testament to their commitment to their profession and public health, it may lead to increasing numbers leaving the professions in the months and years to come.

Other than retirement (51.6 per cent), the key reasons for leaving included too much pressure (22.7 per cent) and the impact of a negative workplace culture (18.1 per cent).

Finally, the report also highlights there are now more than 15,000 (15,457) people on the NMC’s COVID-19 temporary register established in March 2020 in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

NMC chief executive and registrar Andrea Sutcliffe said: “Our vulnerability to [global] changes and pressures means the health and social care system needs to focus on a long-term strategy to support sustainable growth in the workforce – attracting new recruits and retaining the skilled professionals we already have.”

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