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Is the UK nursing workforce heading towards a crisis?

Is the UK nursing workforce heading towards a crisis?

28 November 2021
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Healthcare recruitment

The workforce is growing, but is it enough?


The Nursing & Midwifery Council (NMC) have recently released their latest registration figures, which show that the total number of nurses, nursing associates and midwives on the register has increased to an all-time high of nearly 745,000. Over 24,000 new nurses and midwives joined the register in the last six months.


However, there was also a 27% increase in the number of professionals leaving the register, for the first time in several years. This means that although the number of professionals on the register is continuing to rise, the rate of growth has become slower than before. With demand for nursing services continuing to increase, many are now worried that the growth of the register will not meet demand.


Pressures on UK healthcare


The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has released a report on 10 Unsustainable Pressures on the Health and Care System in England.


In this report, they identify:

  • Sickness absence in nurses working in the NHS and social care

  • NHS nursing workforce vacancy rate

  • Insufficient domestic NHS and social care nursing supply

as three of the areas that most demonstrate “unsustainable, untenable conditions within the health and care system across England”.


The latest figures from NHS Digital show that every region of England saw a rise in nurse vacancies over last year, with many of these vacancies staying open for several months.


It’s clear that the UK is facing a problem with its nursing workforce that needs to be addressed, but how?


Where will the nurses of the future come from?


The numbers of nursing students are on the rise, but these future nurses will take years to join the register, and their numbers alone will not be enough to meet rising demand.


Agency nurses have been used successfully to plug gaps in staffing levels, but becomingly increasingly reliant on temporary workers is likely to prove expensive in the long run.


Many Trusts across the UK have now chosen to run recruitment drives to bring in nurses from countries outside of the EU. MSI International have successfully recruited thousands of international nurses for NHS Trusts.


According to Andrea Sutcliffe, NMC Chief Executive and Registrar:

“Professionals from outside Europe are making an increasingly big contribution to the growth of our register. They make a vital and welcome difference to people’s health and wellbeing.”


Is your organisation considering recruiting from overseas?


Why not download our free report on The Challenges of International Recruitment?


Alternatively, get in touch with our team to find out how we can help on +44 (0)203 817 4059 or international@msigroupltd.com.