Nursing leaders are reporting a ‘dangerous and downward spiral’, as new figures reveal one in 10 nurses leave the NHS each year, with 33,000 nurses walking away last year alone, meaning the pressure is building on community services and understaffed hospitals.

To get a greater understanding of nursing shortages within the NHS, the BBC conducted an in-depth study, revealing:

  • “More than 10% of the nursing workforce have left NHS employment in each of the past three years.”
  • “The number of leavers would be enough to staff more than 20 average-sized hospital trusts.”
  • “Leavers outnumbered joiners by 3,000 last year, the biggest gap over the five-year period examined by the BBC.”
  • “Brexit may have had an impact. Since the referendum the NHS has gone from EU joiners outnumbering leavers to the reverse – more leavers than joiners.”
  • “Nurses are being pulled off research work, special projects and admin roles to plug the gaps.”

Source: BBC News

Freedom of information reports indicate in Wales, there were more nurses leaving the profession, than joining. Although, in Scotland and Northern Ireland, the number of nurses joining the profession is higher than those leaving.

The head of the Royal College of Nursing, Janet Davies, said: “The government must lift the NHS out of this dangerous and downward spiral. We are haemorrhaging nurses at precisely the time when demand has never been higher.”

Davies also added: “[…] Most patient care is given by NHS nurses and each time the strain ratchets up again they are the ones who bear the brunt of it.”

How the NHS is trying to retain nurses:

To help decrease the number of leavers, NHS improvement is heading up a retention programme.

Staff awards, discounts in shops and gyms, mentoring schemes and direct support in half of hospitals and all mental health Trusts, are just some of the things NHS improvement will be introducing to help retain nurses.

England’s chief nurse, Professor Jane Cummings, said: “The NHS is learning by making nursing more attractive. We are beginning to see some fantastic good practice giving people flexible, rewarding careers. The key is getting it everywhere.”

The government will also be increasing the number of nursing training places by 5,000 this year – although it will be three years before they graduate.


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