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Exclusive: Increase in nurses 'quitting' register


An increasing number of nurses are allowing their registrations to lapse each year, at a time when the NHS is struggling with a shortage of qualified staff, an investigation by Nursing Times has found.

More must be done to support the current nursing workforce and also those that want to return to the profession, nursing leaders have said in response to the findings.

Latest figures supplied to Nursing Times reveal the number of people choosing to stop working as nurses. The number joining the register has increased by almost 10,000 since 2010. However, the number leaving it has reached a four-year high.

According to Nursing and Midwifery Council, more than 23,000 nurses allowed their registration to lapse during the 12 months prior to March – the highest number since 2010. This is equivalent to 3.4% of the total number of nurses on the register, which stood at 675,255 on 31 March.

In comparison, data for March 2010 shows 21,949 nurses allowed their registration to lapse. The number of lapses fell slightly in 2011 to 20,876, but increased again in 2012 to 21,851 before climbing to 23,088 this year.

Registration is recorded as lapsed when someone fails to pay their annual fee to the NMC, making it illegal for them to work as a qualified nurse.

Reasons for lapses include injury, career change, moving overseas or retirement – though some nurses remain on the register after 55 in order to do agency work.

The trend comes as evidence of a fresh crisis in nurse recruitment has emerged in recent weeks.

Nursing Times revealed last month that most acute trusts were increasing the number of nursing posts in their organisations, in order to maintain patient safety in the wake of the public inquiry on care failings at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust.

However, thousands of these posts remain vacant and at least a third of hospital trusts have actively recruit nurses from overseas to try and fill gaps in rotas.

Data from the NHS Information Centre reveals there were 347,444 qualified nurses working in the NHS in July 2013, a drop of 6,468 nurses since the coalition government was elected.

Howard Catton, policy director for the Royal College of Nursing, said: “Nurses do not take snap decisions to leave the profession.

“There is usually a lot of soul searching before quitting, which means that it’s likely to be a permanent decision and not one that’s readily reversed,” he said.

He called for the government and NHS to focus on encouraging current staff to remain in the profession.

“Given both the current shortage and the ageing of the profession, it is more important than it ever has been to retain the staff we have,” he said. “This means valuing and supporting nurses both as individuals and as a profession to do the job they aspired to on their first day of training.”

Return-to-practice courses have traditionally provided the most obvious route back into the nursing profession. A total of 35 universities are listed by the NMC as offering them.

However, courses can cost returners in the region of £1,500 each and individuals are required to find their own clinical placements.


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Readers' comments (41)

  • Most nurses I know would quit and do something else if they could.
    Add to the stress of the job, a truly awful employer, and you`re on a road to nowhere.
    Oh, and I've worked in ICU for 20 years, and yes I am completely burned out, but my employer doesn't care.

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  • I am a Band 7 of 20 + years experience looking to get out and will be another statistic for lapsed registration.
    We are being abused by politicians, chief executives, directors of nursing, matrons, auditors, newspapers, unions and patients for all the ills of the NHS. Doctors remain unaccountable and untouchable. If they do not want to engage with patients on the ward they simply do not come. We are weak and an easy target.

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  • If I could find another job with similar money to what I'm on now (band 5) I'd leave nursing tomorrow. Unfortunately, where I live the only thing on offer is minimum wage jobs and as my nursing qualification does not transfer to other roles I'm stuck.

    I've looked into getting a 'trade' of some sorts, but all the training programmes are geared-up for young apprentices.

    So, until the mortgage is paid I'm stuck - just not sure how long I can keep it up for.

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  • I am a Band 6 Community nurse, and I love my job. However, I am sick to death of the continual erosion of terms of conditions; frozen salary, reduced pension, later retirement, vastly reduced mileage allowance, increased caseload. To top it all, my employer used to make a small contribution towards NMC registration but that was stopped without explanation or apology, and if I want to apply for another job I even have to pay my own CRB check. What a bloody cheek! I do not feel valued by my employer, my patients or the general public. I have willingly given hours of unpaid overtime to get the job done, sought appropriate training, got involved in mentoring student (with enthusiasm), "gone the extra mile" for patients, yet this counts for nothing and I feel I have been s*** on. The only thing keeping me here is my pension - and I really don't trust that promises will be kept regarding that. If it wasn't for the hope of a pension I would leave tomorrow and do almost anything else. The unions do nothing to support us, and the NMC is a disaster - it is a parasite feeding off apathetic nurses. No wonder sensible nurses are leaving in droves. If we were paid what we are worth, then maybe we would have a bit more pride and been keen to stay.

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  • It's no wonder registrations are decreasing. I agree with my colleagues above - the poor terms and conditions and the sheer disrespect nurses face makes it unattractive for newcomers. If you can get out and make a new career, it makes sense to do so.

    Those of us who've built a respectable career will remember when we were valued for our knowledge and skills, but now it's about cheapness and the only 'must have' qualification is a pulse. My hard earned degrees and specialist qualifications count for nothing now.

    I'm 63 and still on a couple of registers, but it's only because I can still make a difference for patients. If I lose that, there's no point any more.

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  • Band 5 and currently under threat of losing our enhancements and bank shifts as well as no pay rise ...wish id gone into another profession i thought NHS would look after employees well but its all about Audits and money as usual...

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  • I too am another statistic, having decided, after much soul searching, to prematurely retire from the the register. I was on it and consistently working over the past 30 years plus, and had become a highly skilled worker....but I could see what was coming, with the latest round of Government changes and finally decided enough was enough.
    I worked in acute mental health services and can honestly say that the patients/clients rarely made me feel that the job wasn't worth it: it was always the systems/structures/processes/poor resources/diminishing terms and conditions of service and the constant, ever increasing adverse interference from Government.

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  • I am quoting a comment written about another subject elsewhere in NT today.

    "I did not come into this job to work myself into a bitter state of slavish ineffectiveness."

    Unfortunately, it appears to happen regularly. However, given the fact that nurses unions and the nurses who are their members (and don't vote in ballots) have done absolutely nothing to prevent UK Nursing deteriorating to such a state, the bitterness and slavish ineffectiveness is very much their lot.

    We seem to do nothing more than endlessly list all our sacrifices (I work through all my breaks, stay behind for hours upon hours, never go the loo, never have time for a drink of water, donate a kidney and a lung, etc, etc!!) and losses and blame everyone else for our situation. Nurses have done nothing, really nothing, to help themselves. When nurses stop feeling sorry for themselves and actually start taking some meaningful measures against the onslaught, things may change. But I won't hold my breath. It is easier to leave or say nothing.

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  • I loved working as a nurse for 6 years. The NMC registration lapses in March 2014 and I will not be renewing it.
    Let me tell you why?
    I will not be held accountable for the failings of others; Doctors, managers & ad infinitum.
    I will be able to take my breaks, lunch and requested holidays.
    As a salesperson, I will be rewarded for my efforts.
    But, I'm going to miss many of the patients and colleagues who made it worthwhile for so long.
    Goodbye NHS, NMC & MP. Shame really. Nursing was for me. I'm leaving a profession in decline. Nurses are not looking after themselves or each other. How on earth can it be said that we 'advocate' for the most vulnerable?

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  • I know it isn't very much but I value and respect all of you


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