The number of nurses, midwives and nursing associates registered to practise in the UK has grown to a record total of 788,638. This means the NMC register is now equivalent to 1.2 percent of the estimated UK population. 

Underlying this strong growth, 2022–2023 saw the highest number of new joiners to the NMC’s register in a single year – 52,148. Almost half (25,006) were internationally educated, while the number of UK educated joiners rose by 8.5 percent to more than 27,142. 

With international recruitment continuing at a significant rate, professionals educated around the world now account for one in five nurses, midwives and nursing associates who can practise in the UK. 

Most international joiners are from outside Europe and tend to be more ethnically diverse than the register they’re joining. UK joiners are also becoming more ethnically diverse – almost a third of last year’s domestically educated joiners are from Black and minority ethnic backgrounds. 

The increasing ethnic diversity of new nurses, midwives and nursing associates, whether educated at home or abroad, means the profile of the NMC register is changing. Over the past year, the proportion of all registered professionals who are from Black and minority ethnic backgrounds has risen to 27.7 percent – more than a quarter of the register. 

Meanwhile, the number of people leaving the professions fell slightly last year, to just under 27,000. However, the NMC’s research raises concerns for employers and leaders across health and care to tackle in their retention strategies. 

First, more than half (52.1 percent) of those who left the register did so earlier than planned, with almost a quarter leaving much earlier than they’d expected to. And most said they were unlikely to return to the professions, including younger leavers. 

Secondly, there were five compounding workplace factors that frequently influenced people’s decisions to leave: burnout or exhaustion; lack of support from colleagues; concerns about the quality of people’s care; workload; and staffing levels. 

Andrea Sutcliffe, Chief Executive and Registrar at the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), said: 

“At a time of rising demand for health and care services, it’s welcome news that our register has grown to a record level, due to an increase in domestically educated joiners together with the ongoing surge in international recruitment. 

“These joiners are more ethnically diverse than ever. This matters because NHS research in England shows that Black and minority ethnic staff are more likely to experience harassment, bullying or abuse. There’s also clear evidence that discrimination impacts on the quality of care professionals give, leading to worse health outcomes for people. Therefore it’s more important than ever for employers to foster inclusive cultures, free of the racism and discrimination that profoundly affect people from minority ethnic communities. 

“While recruitment remains strong, there are clear warnings about the workplace pressures driving people away from the professions. Many are leaving the register earlier than planned because of burnout or exhaustion, lack of support from colleagues, concerns about the quality of people’s care, workload and staffing levels.   

“Our insight can support nursing and midwifery leaders across health and social care to focus on the right issues in their retention strategies. Addressing those issues must be a collaborative effort aimed at improving staff wellbeing and retention, for the benefit of everyone using services.” 

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