The number of experienced nurses leaving the profession has doubled in the last three years due to the mounting strain on the NHS and its staff, according to the Royal College of Nursing.
Those with more than 10 years’ service were leaving because of the “perfect storm” of workforce pressures and the 1% cap on pay rises “engulfing nursing” and the NHS, claimed the union.
“The best nurses shouldn’t be forced to throw in the towel because of staff shortages, relentless pressure and poor pay”
Based on analysis of RCN’s own membership information, the loss of experienced nurses from the profession has accelerated.
Its research shows an average of 600 of its members with at least a decade of professional experience now leave each year, compared to around 300 in 2013-14.
The RCN’s figures are only indicative and the full loss to the NHS and the nursing profession will be higher, noted the college.
Specifically, it found 591 RCN members with at least 10 years’ experience had quit nursing in the last 12 months, compared with 323 in the same period in 2013-14.
In contrast, the previous year – 2012-13 – saw only 36 senior nurses who were RCN members leave the profession.
The RCN said it had demanded action from health departments across the UK to retain the most experienced staff.
The analysis comes after NHS Digital confirmed a fall in the number of nurses employed in England and an increase in the number of adverts for nursing posts.
The Nursing and Midwifery Council has also recently warned that more people are leaving than joining their official register.
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Janet Davies, RCN chief executive and general secretary, said: “The best nurses shouldn’t be forced to throw in the towel because of staff shortages, relentless pressure and poor pay. This perfect storm is engulfing nursing and the stakes could scarcely be higher.
“When these people leave nursing, they are taking years of knowledge and hands-on experience with them. Patients get the best care when the most experienced nurses work alongside the newly trained,” she said. “That practice is now at risk.
“All four countries of the UK need a plan to retain the years of collective experience and stem these losses. They must commit to safe staffing levels in legislation, invest in health services and lift the pay cap that is cutting salaries in real-terms,” she added.
The RCN released the information to coincide with its second national campaign day over low pay.
Its members are set to stage 40 events across the UK, calling on the government to lift the public sector pay cap.