The numbers of nurses actively choosing to leave the profession has jumped 26% since the coalition government came into power, Nursing Times can reveal.
In the latest of a series of investigations on nursing workforce issues, it has emerged thousands of nurses are choosing to abandon their nursing career in the wake of uncertainty over NHS reforms and attacks on their pay, terms and conditions.
Last week Nursing Times revealed that more than 23,000 nurses allowed their registrations to lapse in 2012-13 at a time when trusts are struggling to fill vacancies.
Nursing Times has now obtained a breakdown of these figures from the Nursing and Midwifery Council that shows the reasons for the lapses. It reveals 5,422 nurses opted not to practise in 2012-13 for reasons other than retirement, injury or death.
This would be more than enough to meet the 3,700 posts NHS trusts hope to fill this year, which were highlighted by health secretary Jeremy Hunt last week during the government’s response to the Francis report.
The figures show there has been a 26% rise in nurses choosing not to practice since 2009-10, when 4,293 nurses chose to leave the profession. Those walking away reached a high of 5,514 in 2011-12.
Meanwhile, the numbers of nurses retiring have also soared by 128%, from 1,891 in 2009-10 to 4,309 in 2012-13.
Professor Jill Maben, director of National Nursing Research Unit at Kings College London, said: “It is entirely plausible this was a result of increased demands on nurses. [They] are having to work harder, faster and longer for patients with higher needs and you can only do that for so long. Research shows there are very high levels of burnout in the NHS, second only to Greece.”
In recognition of the nursing shortage facing the NHS, Health Education England has revealed plans to go beyond its education role to lead on trying to persuade nurses to return to the NHS and to help trusts retain existing staff.
Jo Lenaghan, director of strategy and workforce planning at HEE, revealed nurses who had left the NMC register would be targeted and her organisation would invest in bespoke training courses for them.
She said: “We want to manage the investment in these nurses that taxpayers have already made, so that nurses have good careers and feel valued – rather than just commissioning more and more [places on degree courses] at a time when the attrition rate at some universities is as high as 30%.”
She added: “Trusts are under pressure to employ adequate numbers of staff to provide safe patient care.”
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