UK

Nurse numbers hit an all-time high as staff delay retiring to help out during Covid pandemic

Nurse numbers hit an all-time high as staff delay retiring to help out during Covid pandemic, report says

  • 15,000 more nurses, midwives and associates registered to work than last year 
  • Experts warned there could be an exodus of older staff once pandemic is over 
  • There are more than 154,000 nurses and midwives aged over 56 on the register 

The number of nurses, midwives and nursing associates in Britain is at an all-time high.

Some 15,000 more are now registered to work compared with the same time last year, taking the total to 732,000, said the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

The NMC’s report said the numbers leaving were also at their lowest in five years. But experts warned there could be an exodus of older staff once the pandemic is over. The report showed that the numbers working beyond retirement age rose by 6.2 per cent, suggesting they had stayed on to help out.

There are now more than 154,000 nurses and midwives aged over 56 on the register – including 3,380 over 71.

The NMC’s register has details of all practising UK nurses and midwives. NMC chief Andrea Sutcliffe said: ‘Overall, today’s report paints a picture of cautious optimism.’

An NHS nurse preparing a coronavirus vaccine. There are now more than 154,000 nurses and midwives aged over 56 on the register – including 3,380 over 71

But Pat Cullen, from the Royal College of Nursing, said the report confirms ‘trouble on the horizon for people needing health and care services’, adding: ‘The register is growing nowhere near enough to meet patient demand.’

The number of people leaving the register is at its lowest in five years, with fewer than 24,000 (23,936) people leaving in 2020-21 compared to a peak of almost 35,000 (34,941) in 2016-17.

It comes just after Jenny McGee, a nurse who looked after Boris Johnson when he was seriously ill with Covid-19 resigned, citing the Government’s 1 per cent pay offer and its lack of respect for the profession.

It comes just after Jenny McGee, a nurse who looked after Boris Johnson when he was seriously ill with Covid-19 resigned (pictured at a Downing Street garden party, July 2020)

It comes just after Jenny McGee, a nurse who looked after Boris Johnson when he was seriously ill with Covid-19 resigned (pictured at a Downing Street garden party, July 2020)

A poll of 5,639 nurses who left the register between July 2019 and June 2020 found that retirement was the most common reason for leaving.

But more than a fifth (22.7 per cent) said they left the workforce due to ‘too much pressure’, which led to stress and poor mental health, and 18 per cent cited workplace culture issues.

Sean O’Sullivan, from the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), added: ‘The significant pressures on maternity services and the wider NHS, serious and longstanding midwife shortages, coupled with a paltry and insulting pay offer for NHS staff in England could see midwives and other staff exiting the NHS, particularly those close to or at retirement age.’

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