Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Mid-career nurses leaving register is ‘most worrying,’ says NMC chief


The head of the Nursing and Midwifery Council has said she is more concerned about nurses in their 40s who are leaving the profession than those departing closer to retirement, as the regulator released a report showing its register has shrunk in size for the first time in recent history.

She also suggested that if significant numbers of nurses and midwives continued to depart, the regulator would have to look at whether annual registration fees needed to increase.

”You’d expect people between 51 and 60 to be leaving as we have an ageing workforce, but the nurses and midwives in their 40s leaving is a surprise”

Jackie Smith

The NMC chief said it was “not a surprise” that there had been an increase in the past year in the number of nurses and midwives in their 50s leaving the register - because the profession had an ageing workforce.

A higher number of registrants at this age would therefore be expected to leave due to retirement, she said.

However, she told Nursing Times that “what worries [her] most” is those mid-career nurses in their 40s who were choosing to exit the register.

The NMC has released figures today showing that between 2016 and 2017, 20% more people left the register than joined it.

This is the first time this has happened in recent history and has caused the register to shrink – from a total of 692,556 registrants in March 2016, to 690,773 in March 2017.

Across all age groups there has been an increase in the number leaving in the past year.

Among those aged between 41 and 50 years old, around 3,500 people have left the register each year since 2013 – until 2017 when this jumped to about 4,700.

An NMC survey has revealed 44% of those who did not leave due to retirement said it was because of working conditions, including staffing levels.

”This trend of leavers may be reversed as we go through the year, but we just don’t know, we are examining the data daily”

Jackie Smith

“What worries me most is those 40 year olds leaving the register. You’d expect people aged between 51 and 60 to be leaving as we have an ageing workforce, but the nurses and midwives in their 40s leaving is a surprise,” NMC chief executive and registrar Jackie Smith told Nursing Times.

“This trend of leavers may be reversed as we go through the year, but we just don’t know, we are examining the data daily,” she said.

She also said it was “not a surprise” that a number of people from the survey cited revalidation as the reason for leaving the register as it was likely many nurses had not completed the required number of practice hours to maintain their registration under the new system.

”If we continue to take this direction and we lose significant numbers of nurses, we would have to consider our financial position”

Jackie Smith

When asked by Nursing Times whether the government’s pay cap – which restricts annual public sector pay rises to 1% - was to blame for nurses leaving the register, she said it was not clear.

“I am being asked if this is as a direct result of the pay cap. The truth is we have absolutely no idea. Nurses are telling us pay and working conditions are making them leave the register,” she said.

She stressed it was important for organisations to work together to reverse the trends.

Nursing Times asked whether the decline in the size of the register meant the NMC would need to increase the fee nurses and midwives pay to the regulator every year – because the majority of its income comes from that money.

“We have already decided the registration fee [for this year]. But if we continue to take this direction and we lose significant numbers of nurses, we would have to consider our financial position,” said Ms Smith.


Readers' comments (16)

  • Add to the list
    NMC revalidation
    NMC persecution of nurses
    After 30 years service I was referred over a minor matter and had 9 months of duress before eventually it being found I had no case to answer and no possibility of redress.
    The nursing profession fills me with disgust

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • So, nurses leaving the register in droves, many citing financial reasons, and the answer is to consider putting up the fees. Finger on the pulse there then!
    Major rethink needed as all the traditional extra workforce are leaving.
    Older people who I can always remember having around don't want to stay on, people doing a few hours on an area they know well can't fulfil revalidation, child care is more costly than the wages available.
    The idea that you are going to milk the remaining people having scared off so many is frankly disturbing.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • It is a concern but fits with industry trends across the western world with technology speeding up hospital stays , making lean processes and allowing more time to care.
    The ward, as I recall sometimes ran better when there was only a few on duty.
    This new trend must be taken in a number of contexts with the world around us changing each week.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Making some huge assumptions, totally out of touch and the answer to the problem circles round an increase in fees as if thats not going to scare off Nurses coming onto the register.
    There are so many reasons why people are leaving, wages poor work environment or in my case the down=right disgraceful care my parents and grand daughter got in the care of the NHS. I have at least one more revalidation to go through if the NMC has not really taken the mickey over the next 3 years. The degree is here to stay- but from so many conversations I have had its what puts so many potentially fantastic nurses off! HCA wages just won't pay the bills and being bottom of the heap with very little recognition for the fantastic work they do with inadequate support and training I wouldn't recommend that either. My daughter was all set to be a 4th generation nurse- now works for the Council!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Here we go again. So the solution to people leaving the register is considering increasing wages. We that are still barely managing to hold on will now be the scape goat and pay for running the NMC. Face the government please.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • It's revalidation. I know my friend left because of this. For EU nurses it must be so daunting doing revalidation, reflective accounts, etc. It's all a bit too much just to earn a have to proof yourself, despite all the training and updates that one has to do anyway. Revalidation is the game changer.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Putting up NMC fees is likely to drive more nurses out of the profession, most don't know what they're paying for anyway. The NMC should prune their staff to save money, just as NHS hospitals are always having to do. I work part-time on a nurse bank, and yet I pay the same fee as someone working full-time on higher grades - why?

    Re-validation will probably be the last straw for many older nurses, there are too many hoops to jump through already. If you are coming up to retirement and then faced with re-validation, it's likely to tip the balance in favour of retirement.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • This is too funny, nursing is at crisis point! and yet the NMC wants to increase their rates (diabolical). With a 1% pay rate but yet the NMC wants to increase registration. Just imagine a department store have a surplus of shoes that no-one is buying do they increase the price of those shoes or do they put them on sale?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • In the sixties and seventies onwards academics strove hard to get the research and knowledge base of nursing recognised and confirm our status as professionals. Enrolled nurses, less academic but still trained and assessed to national standards were phased out. So we are left with nurses trained to be supervisory care managers, critical thinkers, researched based, with no care givers to supervise. So all these highly qualified people are now working in low banded roles.
    We have a rewards framework which has been eroded for cost saving so that ward managers, originally band 7 are now frequently band 6.
    So, pay restraints for over seven years, restriction of the potential for improvement, removal of the bursary, vacant posts and continual failure to agree on or meet safe staffing levels. How to unpick a profession in easy stages.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Revalidation is the killer if you ask me. I have just under 3 years to do mine. I only work 2 days a week. I am a lone worker in a very remote part of the uk and I am lucky to see my manager twice a year if that. Not sure I am going to bother registering with NMC in 3 years time.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Show 1020results per page

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.