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EU nurses leaving the UK in huge numbers as NHS becomes 'less attractive' to staff

In the last year, there has been a dramatic rise in the number of EU nurses and midwives leaving the NHS.

Figures from the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) show that workers are also joining the service in much reduced numbers – 90% less registrations than last year.

The numbers indicate a wider drop in the numbers of clinical staff as, for the first time, the NHS suffers from more people leaving the register than joining.

Total figures for nurses and midwives leaving show an increase of 4,500 from 2015/16, with a rise across all countries of registration but specifically Europe where the numbers rose by two thirds.

In comparison, the same number of staff are joining the service overall against last year, meaning there is a constant reduction in total numbers.

“Any indication that the NHS is becoming less attractive as a place to work for nurses and midwives, from abroad or from the UK, is worrying,” commented Danny Mortimer, co-convenor of the Cavendish Coalition.

“These figures show an alarming increase in the number of nurses and midwives from Europe leaving the register, which is even more concerning alongside a pronounced decline in the number joining the register.

“NHS organisations are working hard to find ways to address staff concerns and to retain vital nurse skills, but they also need national support. Expansion of nurse training, revisions to language testing and improving access to affordable housing are welcome interventions to support staff retention, but investment is also needed in pay and training budgets, known as continuing professional development.”

Saffron Cordery, director of policy and strategy at NHS Providers, echoed Mortimer’s remarks. She said the government had to react to these figures by confirming EU workers right to stay after Brexit and putting steps in place to “ease intolerable workplace pressures.”

She added: “Just as the health service is trying to respond to the relentless rise in demand and develop new approaches to care, we are seeing more nurses and midwives leaving the register than joining it.

“It is extremely disappointing to see that increasing numbers of UK graduates and nurses and midwives from Europe are leaving the register. The dramatic drop in the numbers joining the register from the EU is particularly worrying.

“NHS trusts are working hard to make the NHS a great place to work, but they need more support.”

NMC’s chief executive and registrar, Jackie Smith, explained the findings: “It’s worrying that we are seeing a continuing rise in nurses and midwives leaving the register and our data is clear that this is being driven by both UK and EU registrants.

“These figures continue to highlight the major challenges faced by the UK’s health and care sectors around the recruitment and retention of staff. Nurses and midwives work incredibly hard in very difficult circumstances. Those responsible for workforce matters will no doubt respond to what these trends are showing.”

Earlier this week, a report from the Health Foundation called the government out on future staff planning. The organisation said plans were “not fit for purpose” as the number of clinical staff in the NHS continues to fall despite a rise in overall workers.

The problems are compounded by an increase in admissions across the country as well as the increasing complexity of services and care.

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