More than 160,000 nurses have quit NHS since 2010/11, data shows

More than 160,000 nurses have quit the NHS since 2010/11 for reasons other than retirement, according to new figures.

Data analysed by the Labour Party and verified by the House of Commons Library shows that from June 2010 to June 2018, 200,586 nurses quit the NHS.

In total, 163,094 quit for reasons other than retirement.

Across all NHS workers, voluntary resignations owing to a poor work-life balance have increased more than any other reason, the data suggests.

In 2011/12, 6,669 resignations were for this reason, rising 169% to 18,013 in 2017/18.

In total, the number of voluntary resignations for any reason have shot up from 74,287 in 2011/12 to 114,870 in 2017/18.

And the number of voluntary resignations for health reasons have doubled from 2,126 in 2011/12 to 4,234 in 2017/18.

The data shows that the percentage of ambulance staff leaving the NHS increased from 4.8% in 2011/12 to 8.1% in 2017/18.

Jon Ashworth
Shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth (Peter Byrne/PA)

Doctors are the biggest group to leave, at 14.6% in 2017/18, followed by nurses and health visitors (10.7%) and midwives (10.6%).

Last week, a report warned that the NHS is at crisis point and is unable to train enough GPs and nurses to meet demand.

The King’s Fund, Nuffield Trust and Health Foundation said the Government would miss its target to recruit 5,000 more GPs by 2020 and the only way to cope with the growing workload was to put more pharmacists and physiotherapists into GP practices.

Thousands more nurses are also needed and immediate measures must be brought in to relieve financial pressure on trainees and to support overseas recruitment, they said.

In a speech at the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) on Wednesday, shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth will say Labour will invest in staff pay and training, reintroduce nurse bursaries and commit funding to health-related degrees.

He will also argue the Government is failing in its duties to staff enshrined in the NHS Constitution, such as creating a good working environment with flexible working opportunities.

He will say: “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%.

“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.”

Royal College of Nursing (RCN) acting chief executive, 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.”

Amber Jabbal, head of policy at NHS Providers, said: “It is no secret that the challenges of recruiting and retaining the right level of staffing to keep health and care services running are the number one concern for NHS trusts.

“If we are to turn the ambitions of the NHS long term plan into reality we must urgently address the growing staff shortages in health and social care.

“We look forward to the publication of the workforce implementation plan next month which should address some of these issues.”

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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