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Number of experienced nurses quitting profession has doubled, warns RCN


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”

Janet Davies

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.

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.

Janet davies

Janet davies

Janet Davies

“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.


Readers' comments (6)

  • I would like to know how many of these 'experienced' nurses were over 50 and how many were working 12-13 hour shifts, often without proper breaks for food and drink. Add to that the stress of having to manage high levels of responsibility alongside extreme tiredness and having to cope with patients who have been given such high expectations that nothing can ever match them. Throw in a continuing pay cap on nurses salary and an every increasing work load, and is it any surprise......

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  • As if they'd tell us that anonymous. They like telling us nothing these days and the NMC has gone downhill on many things, if anything they are much worse now than ever. Like many things in London it's got worse, enough said.

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  • I am an older nurse and I have been trying to get a permanent post for quite some time.
    I have been a practice nurse for over 15 years but just covering maternity and different locum positions.
    I was recently informed that as I didn't have a diploma in asthma that I would not be needed as the new auxiliary nurses could do all treatment room duties, and actually maybe they could just use me to get the child imms up to date.
    Another job I applied for was a ore assessment unit doing everything that I do as a pn I was told that I didn't have enough experience as a hospital nurse.
    I have previously worked on ITU neuro and burns and plastics . I was made to feel worthless and useless and to be honest wondered why on Earth I bothered to revalidated in April last year. I have not taken a pay rise for over 5 years always taking the minimum payment so as not to upset the other staff .
    I'm now considering giving up altogether I've nursed for 36 years from care assistant to NA to an RN .
    I always treat my patients the way I would want to be treated, it's a shame the powers that be don't treat us in that way.

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  • Autocorrect * pre-assessment unit.

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  • I qualified as a nurse in 2001 and since then I have not been able to get anywhere into nursing. Even then I continued my professional development with my own funding. I have a wealth and breath of experiences in nursing as I worked on the wards, outpatients, theatres and as health advisor for patients who need support to lose weight. I completed my BSc in Nursing 3 years ago and even then when I apply for a Band 6 I am turned down. The argument is that I do not have any leadership skills even though this is covered in my course. Many of the colleagues I work with do not even have the mentorship but they are promoted to Band 6. They are then supported with leadership and management skills. They come to me for support with clinical and even drug calculations but they are the ones that are at the top for the ladder. I also noticed that in when there are a group of people coming from one part of the world, most people of the same origin crop up the ladder. I know one Manager, she does not even come on duty but she phones in and talk to members of staff who support her behaviour and she gets away. It is like a cartel and most of the staff exhibit the same behaviour and they get away. They do a private list on the week-ends and the shift finishes at 14.00 but they claim up to 18.00 and it is always the same staff that benefit the shifts. This Manager is now leaving the department and she has recommended another staff for her position. This woman watches movie on her iPad while her patient is left unattended. The top management knows about everything, but nothing is done to remedy the situation. If you do not have the same work ethics as them, you have to take the exit door. Is that what is CALLED LEADERSHIP AND MANAGEMENT, BE AT HOME, WATCH MOVIE WHILE YOUR PATIENT IS LEFT UNATTENDED AND STEAL FROM THE NHS.

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  • I know how you all feel I am nurse over 40 years and I have seen everything mentioned . My heart is breaking at such distress of the above esteemed colleagues and Yes I too am deciding this will be my first and last revalidation with NMC and then its goodbye from me and my compassion and experienced and motivated as a Nurse.
    Enough is enough !! Its funny is it not how the long term experienced are the nurses who are leaving !! What does that say about the recent qualities of the upcoming so called Nurse Leaders !!

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