Nuffield Trust: The pandemic is creating problems for continued future growth of nursing numbers

Billy Palmer responds to the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) mid-year registration data analysis.

Press release

Published: 12/11/2020

Responding to the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) mid-year registration data analysis, Nuffield Trust Senior Research Fellow Dr Billy Palmer said:

"It's great to see the number of nurses increasing but there are some troubling signs here if we hope to see this growth continue. The pandemic is storing up problems for the future while the fact still remains we need many more nurses to meet the growing need for care.

“Last year we concluded with the Health Foundation and King's Fund that 5,000 migrant nurses a year were needed in England alone to achieve anything like the 50,000 the Government has promised. Before the pandemic we were briefly on track - but now these figures show international recruitment has fallen by two thirds compared with this time last year.

"In the months covered here, we lost 500 nurses from the European Economic Area, and only gained 1,600 from the rest of the world. This will mean we need to recruit even more from abroad in future, at a time of global shortage and when we are about to impose more costs and bureaucracy on EU migrants.

"Numbers have risen further because fewer nurses left and retired staff returned responding heroically in a time of crisis. But whether these individuals will stay depends on whether the NHS will be more appealing than before. Apart from a need to look at pay and culture, future shortages of nursing staff won't help with that."

Notes to editors

  • 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.
  • For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact Simon Keen on 07805 217935 or