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Exclusive: Numbers choosing to leave nursing rise by 26%

The numbers of nurses actively choosing to leave the profession has jumped 26% since the coalition government came into power, Nursing Times can reveal.

In the latest of a series of investigations on nursing workforce issues, it has emerged thousands of nurses are choosing to abandon their nursing career in the wake of uncertainty over NHS reforms and attacks on their pay, terms and conditions.

Last week Nursing Times revealed that more than 23,000 nurses allowed their registrations to lapse in 2012-13 at a time when trusts are struggling to fill vacancies.

Nursing Times has now obtained a breakdown of these figures from the Nursing and Midwifery Council that shows the reasons for the lapses. It reveals 5,422 nurses opted not to practise in 2012-13 for reasons other than retirement, injury or death.

This would be more than enough to meet the 3,700 posts NHS trusts hope to fill this year, which were highlighted by health secretary Jeremy Hunt last week during the government’s response to the Francis report.

The figures show there has been a 26% rise in nurses choosing not to practice since 2009-10, when 4,293 nurses chose to leave the profession. Those walking away reached a high of 5,514 in 2011-12.

Meanwhile, the numbers of nurses retiring have also soared by 128%, from 1,891 in 2009-10 to 4,309 in 2012-13.

Professor Jill Maben, director of National Nursing Research Unit at Kings College London, said: “It is entirely plausible this was a result of increased demands on nurses. [They] are having to work harder, faster and longer for patients with higher needs and you can only do that for so long. Research shows there are very high levels of burnout in the NHS, second only to Greece.”

In recognition of the nursing shortage facing the NHS, Health Education England has revealed plans to go beyond its education role to lead on trying to persuade nurses to return to the NHS and to help trusts retain existing staff.

Jo Lenaghan, director of strategy and workforce planning at HEE, revealed nurses who had left the NMC register would be targeted and her organisation would invest in bespoke training courses for them.

She said: “We want to manage the investment in these nurses that taxpayers have already made, so that nurses have good careers and feel valued – rather than just commissioning more and more [places on degree courses] at a time when the attrition rate at some universities is as high as 30%.”

She added: “Trusts are under pressure to employ adequate numbers of staff to provide safe patient care.”


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Readers' comments (24)

  • More sense from Jill Maben

    Recruitment and retention of nurses will only work effectively if Ministers taken evidence based decisions about how to recruit, how many to recruit and how to0 retain.

    Stopping the blame culture might help......

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  • Offering decent pay and terms and conditions, comparable with other professions might just help too.....

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  • Offering decent pay and terms and conditions, comparable with other professions might just help too.....

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  • there will also be a number of nurses (I am one of them) who were transitioned into manager roles (not clinical and not by choice) as part of the new NHS. Suspect that may add to the oevrall numbers

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  • I have just returned to practice after a 12 year break.
    I was horrified by what is happening in the NHS and have chosen to work in the private sector.
    It's far from ideal, but far better than the NHS alternative.

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  • what happened to all the comments on the subject that were online last night....were they too negative????

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  • Increased fees for an inept regulator, pay cuts (regrading, pay freezes and below inflation rises), constant abuse of the profession by politicians and media; a "perfect" storm for recruitment and retention. It is a wonder that more have not left, however I cannot agree that the private sector is a better option. I have seen nothing of the NHS changes and privatisation so far that suggests any improvement for patients or staff is experienced in the private sector. If I am ill requiring hospital care, I would not choose the private sector if a reasonable alternative in the NHS exists.
    As regards nurses letting their registration lapse when they go into management, this could be selling their soul to the devil, realising the conflict of professional interest might exist in management roles where financial balance is the primary concern. Until managers have a mandatory register too, it is unlikely that there will be much change in this.
    If bankers need bonuses to retain them and to do a good job, why is the policy for "quality healthcare" to reduce salaries and provide no incentive to stay? No job should require a bonus for a job well done, just fair pay and an appropriate way of dealing with consistently under performing staff.

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  • 25 November 2013, Monday

    Its a very clear message, the current government does NOT care about the working lives of the registered nurses and healthcare professionals.

    Every year the cost of living is rising while our monthly pay is shrinking. Basic consumer goods such as food, rent, utility bills- petrol and electricity, train tickets, bus fares are rising every year. Making multinational corporations filthy rich. While WE, RGNs struggle to work for our pay.

    Remember the coalition government stop our pay rise because they want to please their rich friends, which is their most priority. Reducing government funding or debt servicing comes in second.

    We will not have another Mid Staff Crisis, if they have NOT meddle with the budgets regarding front-line staff. They have cost cut and reduce the amount of front-line staff in acute NHS Hospitals.

    There is a way in resolving this crisis. Government should retain and support front-line staff:
    1) Increase their pay and improve terms and conditions.
    2) Provide a NONE Bullying environment.
    3) Top level executives, board members, directors, middle managements, department heads and ward mangers should be held accountable for staffing allocations and duty rosters.
    4) Legislate "NOW" minimum staffing, a one registered nurse is to six patients in an adult ward. Healthcare assistants should be accountable for their practice.
    5) Speaking out safely should be protected under the law.

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  • Anonymous | 25-Nov-2013 6:40 pm

    The comments you are thinking of probably related to another thread. NT often prints very similar articles within hours of each other. You will probably find the article and comments if you search around a bit. They don't delete comments for negativity.

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  • Anonymous | 25-Nov-2013 6:40 pm

    Given that the government isn't going to implement any of your 5 points, or any of the 100 or so other suggestions that nurses have, how do you propose you are going to achieve them?

    How about going out on strike? Would you be prepared to do that?

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  • Battles will continue, however the war has been lost! Sorry.

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  • 26% rise choose to leave, I believe more British people especially the young refusing to even enter.

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  • Anonymous | 26-Nov-2013 10:13 am

    Eh, what battles? I don't see anyone fighting.

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  • Yes, I am prepared to go on strike, but I fear I am one of only a few who will do so. I would feel bad about it, as I do love my job and value my patients, but I have been pushed to the limit ! am unsure of the mysterious ways in which unions work, so don't really know how the nursing profession could demand strike action. I am pretty sure Unison is "in bed" with management, rather than on the side of front line NHS staff. All I have seen recently have been negative outcomes for staff, but they claim "victory" because they manage to make the cuts slightly less savage. How do we get a national ballot for strike action?

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  • Anonymous | 26-Nov-2013 5:08 pm

    I agree.

    I last went out on strike a couple of years ago during the first day of action over the proposed changes to our pension. I was the only one in my unit as everyone else was in RCN and I am in Unison. Hardly anyone in Unison or other unions marched or stood at the hospital gates. Two Unison colleagues in the ward next to mine, told me they stayed at home and took advantage of the day off. They didn't march because it was raining! When the unions balloted for further days of action, less than 20% of nurses bothered to vote. It wasn't enough to call for further action.

    Nurses need to decide what they want, whether or not they want their unions to organise action and then they need to contact their unions to let them know that they will support any action. I don't see any of that happening soon. But it is entirely up to the Nursing workforce to do something about it.

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  • This is happening. Nurses are moving on. Less are entering the profession and more are leaving. Practicing Nurses could fight and strike against the affronts to patient welfare and working conditions/practices? But why should we? In my experience as a nurse and working with fellow nurses, we go with the flow. We will tolerate the extreme. That is our nature as people who care. Nurses are flexible, adaptable and honourable in general.
    Naturally, there is a tipping-point. Nurses in general will not strike, fight or compromise patient safety in situ. They will move on for all the pertinent reasons we know of. What I know is that when I trained to be a Nurse and several years post qualification: Nursing was recommended to me and recommended to others respectively. It was never a job for the money or status. The vocation was about protecting and empowering vulnerable people, simultaneously doing (what I think) is the right thing.
    I got on with my job as a Nurse under the most horrible conditions. It was easy to complain, nobody listened, nothing was done, plethora of irrelevant paperwork and tick boxes.
    There is no need for action. Our own inaction has destroyed the Profession. We have done that well. And we are okay with it? So Nurses leave and never recommend the profession to others.

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  • I'd like to see all these other "negative" comments please.

    Are the editors afraid of facing the truth, that there is so much dissatisfaction in nursing that they are afraid of seeing it in print?

    Or is this response section edited by Cummings, Hunt and his cronies or just tory government lackies?

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  • nothing like brushing everything under the carpet then it doesn't exist.

    Never mind, can get loads of cheap labour from eastern Europe and unemployed nurses from Spain etc.

    So why put yourselves through this, and pay for the "privilege" of training when all they want is "nursing" on the cheap? it is no longer a "profession" that I would recommend to anyone.

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  • 29 November 2013

    Its time for a snap parliamentary elections. NOW, its the time to change this incumbent government. To vote for NO confidence in this current government. Go to parliament and picket rain or shine.... just like 1982. We can change things if we are all in this together.

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  • I've been a Nurse for barely three months and already feel burnt out. I've been left alone to run a ward of 25 patients on several occasions, there's not a high enough staff to patient ratio, and I never get a break or eat in a 12 hours shift.
    A bit more support and safer staffing levels!

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