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Nursing talent crisis felt by recruiters

DECLINE: Numbers registering in the UK as nurses have fallen by 1,783 to 690,773 in the year to March

ACCORDING TO the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), for the first time since 2008, more nurses and midwives are leaving the profession in the UK than joining it. Numbers registering in the UK have fallen by 1,783 to 690,773 in the year to March.

The NMC said the decline had been most pronounced among British workers, with many of those departing citing working conditions as a reason for leaving. The government, however, said there were now 13,000 more nurses working in England than in 2010.

According to recruiters, the NHS is facing a perfect storm due to stringent English language testing making it harder to recruit from overseas, a crackdown on agency use, a public sector pay freeze, tough working conditions and Brexit all contributing to the NHS’s hiring travails.

According to Recruiter, Barry Pactor, group managing director at ttm Healthcare, said pay and conditions are currently “dreadful” for nurses at the moment.

“There’s a huge nursing shortage and there’s an ageing population. There are growing pressures on the health service and it’s just not a great place to work. Despite the best efforts, morale is probably at its worst ever.

“The crisis in the NHS over the last winter was incredibly intense and incredibly severe... People are burning out and are leaving the profession.

“I think in the past 12-18 months the NHS has been pushing really hard to reduce the role of agencies, to reduce the use of overtime – that’s not been helping. Whereas it’s been a pressure release valve for nurses, we’re now losing them altogether from the profession.

“It’s getting harder and harder to find good quality nurses. We’ve been looking overseas to try and increase the number of nurses here in the UK but obviously that’s coming under significant pressure because of the English language tests and to a lesser extent Brexit.

“This is making it incredibly difficult to be a nurse in this country.”

Olivia Spruce, director at TFS Healthcare, agrees, describing the NHS’s current nursing talent crisis as a “perfect storm”.

“A culmination of a pre-existing lack of domestic nursing numbers, coupled with the number of nurses leaving the NHS largely for issues around total disillusionment around patient-care and lack of recognition, and also added to this is the exodus of EU nurses leaving the NHS. We must remember that EU nurses were once seen as almost a panacea to the national healthcare staffing crisis. The domestic skills shortage issues and poor retention of talent meant that for a while EU nurses provided a temporary sticking plaster. Brexit has now ripped away this plaster and exposed a wound that was never able to heal.

“Everyone is feeling this staffing crisis which, unless we take a universal approach to dealing with, it will only deepen.”

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