The number of nurses and midwives working in health and care services in Northern Ireland continues to climb but turnover is high, with nearly 1,300 leaving in the past year, new figures show.
The statistics provide a snapshot of the number and make-up of the nursing and midwifery workforce in Northern Ireland, as of March this year.
It reveals there were more than 17,200 individual nurses and midwives working in the country’s five health and social care trusts, ambulance service and regional services.
This equates to 15,134 whole-time equivalent (WTE) nurses and midwives at Band 5 or above – an increase of 1.3% in the full-time nursing and midwifery workforce since March 2016.
The statistics, published by the region’s Department of Health, show the number of WTE nurses and midwives has gone up steadily in recent years, increasing by 7% since March 2013.
The figures also show an increase in nursing support staff, with just over 4,267 WTEs in post in March this year, up 4.6% on the previous year. Overall, the nursing support workforce has increased by 8.3% since March 2013.
In addition, the latest workforce census includes information on staff turnover and shows significant numbers both leaving and joining the workforce.
A higher rate of nursing and midwifery staff left their jobs in the past year than other health and care professionals, with a leaving rate of 5.9% – 1,299 nurses and midwives in all.
This rate compares to 5.2% for doctors and dentists, 5.1% for social care staff and 4.2% for ambulance staff.
At the same time, nursing and midwifery in Northern Ireland saw the largest number of people taking up jobs – 1,613 people in all.
This represents a joining rate of 7.4%, just behind social services at 7.6% and above medicine and dentistry at 4.3%.
The data also shows that 397 nursing and midwifery staff moved roles – a 1.8% moving rate.
The census covers the majority of staff working in hospital, community and social services in the region. But it does not include bank nurses or sessional staff or members of staff on career breaks.
It confirms that nursing, midwifery and health visiting is the biggest occupational group, with a total of 19,000 WTE staff, representing 35% of the WTE workforce.
Just under two thirds – 65% – of nursing and midwifery staff were employed at bands 5 and 6, with 22% at bands 1 to 4, and nearly 13% at bands 7 to 9.
Of the qualified nursing and midwifery staff, more than half – 53% – were acute or general nurses, while 11% were mental health nurses, 7% midwives and 7% specialist nurses.
District nursing represents 6%, paediatric nurses 5% and health visitors 3%. Just 3% were classed as nurse managers.
The vast majority – 92% – of nursing and midwifery employees were female, with 56% working full time.
Of the 1,754 male nurses and midwives, 90% worked full-time with more men working in mental health than other branches of nursing. In all 22% of mental health nurses were male.
The figures show 60% of nurses and midwives are aged 40 or over, with a significant proportion aged 50 or above.
The group with the largest proportion of staff over 50 were treatment room, practice and family planning nurses, at 57%.
The figures show 38% of midwives are aged 50 or above, as were 37% of health visitors and 36% of district nurses.