Increase in registered nurses doesn't tell the full story

Billy Palmer responds to the NMC mid-year data report on registered nurses in the UK.

Press release

Published: 30/11/2023

Responding to the NMC report on nurse registration figures, Dr Billy Palmer, Senior Fellow at the Nuffield Trust said:

“It is encouraging to see a significant increase and a record number of nurses registered in the UK. The jump in nurse numbers in the year to September 2023 – of some 32,500 nurses – is by far the largest annual increase since the data began. However, the headline figure doesn’t tell the full story. Healthcare services are not benefiting equally from the growth in registered nurses with, for example, numbers of registered learning disability nurses continuing to fall.

“Crucially, while there has been an increase in UK-trained nurses joining the register, many will not join the NHS. We have stressed the need to plug the leaks in the pipeline for homegrown clinicians, and policymakers need to gain a better understanding of why so many are taking jobs outside of the NHS, including in the private sector.

“We are relying on overseas nurses more and more to fill the gaps where we struggle to attract domestic staff. Over the last six months, as many joiners came from overseas as were trained domestically. And, staggeringly, overseas recruits have accounted for two-thirds of the net increase in nurses, midwives and nursing associate numbers over the last four years.”

Notes to editors

  1. The Nuffield Trust is an independent health think tank. We aim to improve the quality of health care in the UK by providing evidence-based research and policy analysis and informing and generating debate
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