200,000 nurses have quit the NHS since 2010

The total number of staff leaving the NHS due to a poor work-life balance has more than tripled.

Matt Bodell
28 March 2019
Corridor in modern hospital

A ‘staggering’ 163,094 left the NHS for reasons other than retirement.

The Labour Party’s Shadow Health Secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, has warned that cuts to professional development budgets and the removal of the NHS student bursary, both under a Conservative Government, have caused a recruitment and retention crisis.


Research conducted by the Labour Party and verified by the House of Commons Library shows that between 2010 and 2018 over 200,000 nurses left the NHS with a staggering 163,094 leaving for reasons ‘other than retirement’.

Meanwhile, the number of workers who quit for health reasons has doubled and the total number of staff leaving the NHS due to a poor work-life balance has more than tripled.

In the same period, budgets for Continuing Professional Development were been drastically reduced, with just £84m dedicated to workforce development in 2018/19.

Despite these figures, the Department of Health and Social Care claims there are over 15,800 more nurses on wards since 2010.


The Royal College of Nursing claims the “retention crisis” is causing patient care to be routinely compromised.

‘We are facing a retention crisis’.

Jonathan Ashworth MP, Labour’s Shadow Health and Social Care Secretary, said; “It’s utterly staggering that our NHS has lost over 200,000 nurses under the Tories and that voluntary resignations from the NHS is up 55 per cent.

“We are facing a retention crisis in our NHS and standards which staff should expect – enshrined in the NHS Constitution – have simply been abandoned.

“After years of pay restraint, cuts to training budgets and growing pressures it is no wonder the NHS is facing chronic shortages of 100,000 staff. These shortages affect patient care every day as waiting lists grow and operations are cancelled.


“A Labour government will invest in NHS staff and help staff develop to meet the challenges of the future. It’s my ambition that the NHS becomes the best employer in the world. It’s not only the correct thing to do to improve the quality of care of patients, it’s in our economic interest as well.”

‘Patient care is compromised’.

The Royal College of Nursing has an ongoing campaign for safe staffing numbers to be enshrined into law.

The unions Chief Executive and General Secretary Dame Donna Kinnair said: “Health and care services are losing thousands of experienced, dedicated nursing staff who feel as if no one is sufficiently listening to their concerns and patient care is routinely compromised by chronic staff shortages.  The RCN is calling for accountability for staffing of safe and effective care to be enshrined in law in England  – at the highest levels – to ensure we have the right numbers of nurses in the right places across health and social care.

“It will be impossible to grow the number of nursing students in higher education, and refresh our workforce, without a clear commitment to addressing supply and a fresh funding of at least £1 billion to replace the existing flawed system. We also need a sustained increase in funding for continuing professional development which must be tailored to ensure nursing staff have the skills they need now and for the future.”

‘15,800 more nurses’.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “Our Long Term Plan sets out how we will make the NHS the safest healthcare system in the world and ensure it is a consistently great place to work for our dedicated staff.


“There are over 15,800 more nurses on our wards since 2010, with 52,000 more in training – and we are improving staff retention by promoting flexibility, well-being and career development and helping more nurses return to practice.

“As well as providing funding to increase university training places, we will set out a full Workforce Implementation Plan later this year to ensure the NHS has the staff it needs for the future.”

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