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More nurses now leaving NHS than joining it

Widest gap between leavers and joiners in Yorkshire and the Humber region

Caroline White

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

More nurses have left the health service in England in the past year than have joined it, show new figures* prepared by NHS Digital for the BBC.

This pattern is evident across all regions of the country, but the widest disparity between leavers and joiners is in the Yorkshire and Humber region, the figures show.

In total 33,440 nurses left their jobs in England, but only 30,388 joined the health service between the end of September 2016 and the end of September 2017.

Unsurprisingly, leavers outnumber joiners as they age, with significantly more nurses in their mid-50s and mid-60s leaving the NHS than joining it.

But, worryingly, the figures show that this discrepancy has already started by the time nurses hit their early 40s (2170 vs 2195). By their early 50s more than twice as many nurses left as joined (1581 vs 3951).

In all, a quarter of leavers were under 30 and half were under 40.

In the Yorkshire and Humber region, 2620 nurses took up health service posts in 2016-17, but 3329 left, representing the largest gap in leavers and joiners of any region in the country, with the drain starting with nurses in their early 30s.

Although nurses from the European Union made up only around 12 per cent of the new workforce in 2016-17, a larger proportion of them left, particularly those aged between 25 and 29 (891 vs 1566).

Speaking on BBC R4’s The Today Programme this morning, Janet Davies, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said that nurses were finding it increasingly impossible to do their job, and felt they had no alternative but to leave.

“[They] are finding it impossible to their job as they would wish to,” she said. “They love being a nurse and are really dedicated, but when they can’t do that, they feel they have no alternative but to leave. They don’t want to be providing poor care.”

She added: “It’s so important that we actually take seriously what nurses are telling us about what the quality of care is like when they don’t have enough registered nurses in clinical areas.”

It was time to legislate for the number of nurses needed to provide safe care, and to do more to retain existing nurses in the workforce, she insisted.


*Supplementary information request for the proportion of nurse leavers by Health Education England (HEE) region, September 2016 to 2017.
 

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