For the first time since 2008, there are more nurses and midwives in the UK leaving the profession that joining it, according to the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).
In the year to March 2017, the number of nurses and midwives registered in the country fell by 1,783, to 690,773, with many employees citing working conditions as reasons to leave.
The NMC said that this downward trend in recruitment and retention of healthcare workers has been the most pronounced among British staff. However, the government has countered this, claiming there were now 13,000 more nurses working in hospitals in England than in 2010.
In the run up to the UK’s snap election on June 8th (April and May specifically) there was an even sharper fall in those leaving the healthcare profession, with an additional 3,264 workers going.
The NMC survey of 4,500 leavers found that retirement was cited as one of the main reasons for leaving, as well as working conditions, including personal circumstances and disillusion with quality of care to patients. Poor pay and benefits were also listed as reasons.
In response to this, the Royal College of Nursing has said that poor working conditions and the “vicious cycle” of staffing levels had contributed to the high number of nurses leaving the profession.
Director of policy and strategy at NHS Providers, which represents NHS trusts, Saffron Cordery, commented: "These figures provide further evidence of the severe workforce problems NHS trusts face. This goes beyond the concerns over Brexit - worrying though they are.
"The reduction in numbers is most pronounced among UK registrants. And it is particularly disappointing to see so many of our younger nurses and midwives choosing to leave."
She went on to say that until we tackle the underlying issues driving retention problems, such as the pay cap and the unsustainable workplace pressures, little will change.