Our nursing workforce is overstretched

The Government must make recruitment and retention of nurses a priority

In too many areas and specialities, the nursing workforce in the UK is overstretched and struggling to cope with demand.

The nursing workforce needs to be expanded. Too little attention has been given to retaining the existing nursing workforce, and more nurses are now leaving their professional register than are joining it.

The UK has fewer nurses 
relative to the population
than the OECD average

Image credit: Deparment of Health

There are many causes for the shortfall in nurses, including workload pressures, poor access to continuing professional development, pay and a general sense of not feeling valued.

Many changes are happening at the same time including new routes into nursing and the role of Nursing Associate, which expands career opportunities for health care assistants.

Over 29,000 UK nurses and midwives left the Nursing and Midwifery Council register in 2016-17.

That is 9% more than the previous year.

Image credit: Department of Health

Nurses from  EU countries who are working in the UK need and deserve further reassurance about their right to remain post-Brexit.

The Committee is calling on the government to keep nursing on the Shortage Occupation List.

Our Chair, Dr Sarah Wollaston, asked the Prime Minister to give assurance that such nurses and their families will be able to stay in the UK.


There are almost 5000 fewer nurses working in community settings since 2010.

photo courtesy Dept of Health

We are calling on the Government to:

1. Expand the nursing workforce at scale and pace and pay more attention to retaining our existing workforce. 

2. Increase the opportunities for nurses to access high quality continuing professional development and improve their working conditions.

3. Monitor the impact of removing nursing bursaries, especially on mature students taking nursing degrees. 

4. Make sure that Nursing Associates have a clear professional identity, which is explained to the public.

We delivered these recommendations to the Government's Department of Health and Social Care on Friday 26 January 2018. They have two months to respond.

Read our full report on the Nursing Workforce and find out more about our inquiry on our website.