The number of nursing and midwifery professionals registered to practise in the UK has grown to more than 758,000. But the number of people leaving the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) register has also started to rise.

A total of 27,133 professionals left the NMC register in 2021–2022. That’s 13 percent more than the year before, and starts to reverse a downward trend in leavers over the recent years.

Nurses and midwives told the NMC that are leaving because of “too much pressure, and poor workplace culture. And more than a third of respondents said the Covid-19 pandemic influenced their decision to leave. Some of those said they were worried about their health, while others struggled with increased workloads and a lack of staff.”

While the number of people leaving the register increased, there was also a welcome rise in people joining for the first time. In total there were 48,436 joiners, up from 34,517 the previous year and 38,317 in 2019–2020.

Partly this reflects the pandemic’s impact. Travel restrictions meant the number of internationally trained joiners fell sharply in 2020–2021. Now we’ve seen a significant increase, with 23,408 internationally trained professionals (66 percent of whom trained in India or the Philippines) joining over the past year.

The number of UK-trained joiners increased only marginally, from 24,555 in 2020–2021 to 25,028 last year. This led to a near even split between domestic and internationally trained new professionals over the past year.

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

“Our register is at the highest level ever. This is good news considering all the pressures of the last two years. But a closer look at our data reveals some warning signs.

“The total number of people leaving the register has risen, after a steady and welcome fall over the previous four years. Those who left shared troubling stories about the pressure they’ve had to bear during the pandemic. A focus on retention as well as attracting new recruits needs to be part of a sustainable workforce plan to meet rising demands for health and care services.

“Another note of caution is that growth of the workforce has become more reliant on internationally trained professionals joining our register. These professionals make a welcome and vital contribution to our nation’s health and wellbeing. But we can’t take them for granted. Two years ago, we felt the pandemic’s impact on global travel; the number of international joiners to our register fell sharply. A future pandemic or other global disruption could see history repeat itself, but with an even bigger impact on the overall growth of the register. We also need to make sure that we are supporting, valuing and rewarding our internationally trained joiners so their careers can thrive in the UK.

“I very much hope our data will help support long-term sustainable workforce planning in health and care services across the UK, for the benefit of our professionals and the public we all serve.”