Number of EU nurses plummets due to a “botched Brexit”

Between April 2017 and March 2018, 3,962 people left – an increase of 29 percent.

Ian Snug
25 April 2018

The Nursing and Midwifery Council has released new figures today which show a significant rise in the number of EU nurses and midwives leaving the register.

Between April 2017 and March 2018, 3,962 registered nurses decided to leave the NMC register – an increase of 29 percent.


There also continues to be a dramatic drop in those joining the register from other EU countries. Over the same period, 805 EU nurses and midwives joined the register compared with 6,382 the year before – an astounding drop of 87 percent.

The NMC surveyed 3,496 people who left the register between June and November 2017 to find out their reasons for leaving. EU nurses and midwives cited leaving the UK and Brexit as their top reasons while retirement, staffing levels and changes to personal circumstances were the main reasons for UK registrants leaving.

Jackie Smith, Chief Executive and Registrar of the Nursing and Midwifery Council said: “The number of people from the EU leaving our register remains a major concern, despite reassuring comments from senior members of government and nurse leaders. While the picture for UK trained nurses and midwives appears to be stabilising.

“We asked people why they were leaving and for the small number of EU nurses and midwives who responded it’s clear that Brexit is playing a part, while retirement and staffing levels are clear factors in the decision of UK nurses and midwives to leave the profession.


“The government has announced an increase in undergraduate training places and those responsible for workforce planning should continue to look at what can be done to better support the nursing profession at this difficult time.”

Janet Davies, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, responding to new figures from the Nursing and Midwifery Council on the size of its register and the impact of Brexit, said:  “It feels that efforts to boost the number of nurses are being dragged down by a botched Brexit. Nurses returning home, or giving Britain a miss entirely, are doing so because their rights are not clear enough. Theresa May must use every opportunity to say they are welcome here and valued in health care. 

“Starting to stem the loss of British nurses is welcome but the real battle is to inspire young people to join the profession. Higher starting salaries should go some way but the Government can and should go much further by supporting students with grants and launching a powerful national advertising and recruitment campaign.

“As the overall number of nursing staff falls again, it is patients who will worry the most. The Government knows patients can pay the highest price when staff shortages bite. Each country of the UK needs a funded and detailed plan to boost nurse numbers and ensure safe patient care.”


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