There remain serious shortages in health and social care nursing despite strong mid-year growth, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has said.
The NMC issued the warning despite the number of registered nurses, midwives and nursing associates reaching an all-time high in the six-month period to September 30.
Andrea Sutcliffe CBE, Chief Executive and Registrar at the NMC, said: “We know the incredible impact that nurses, midwives and nursing associates have in providing highly skilled and person-centred care for millions of people living across all four countries of the UK. I’m pleased to see such an increase of people on our register.”
In its latest mid-year figures, covering the period from April 1 to September 30, the NMC said there were more than 700,000 people on its register, up by 8,015 (1.15%) over the six-month period – more than double the rise in the previous-year period when the register rose by 3,340 (0.48%) people.
By professional role, the number of registered nurses grew by 6,669 (1.02%) to 660,213. Nursing associate numbers rose by 999 to 1,488.
The number of registered nurses trained in the UK rose by 5,012 (0.85%) to 595,906, driven by an increase in those joining the register for the first time and fewer people leaving.
There was also a 4,065 (5.5%) rise in the number of people from outside the EU/EEA joining the register to a total of 77,373. People joining the register from the EU/EEA fell by 1,062 (3.2%), however, to 31,973.
Andrea added: “It’s important we recognise the enormous contribution that nursing and midwifery professionals from overseas continue to make for people in the UK. It’s clear they are a vital part of our UK health and care workforce, and I’m glad to see the recent changes we’ve made to streamline our processes for those joining the register from outside the UK are making a real difference.
“But the reality is, even with this considerable mid-year growth, there are still serious shortages across the health and care sector – not least in specialist areas such as mental health and learning disabilities.”
The NMC data also highlighted the ageing nursing demographic with the number of those in the 61-65 age bracket growing by 2,220 (5.57%) compared with 1,659 (1.48%) in the 21-30 age group.
Andrea commented: “With so many on our register nearing retirement age, it’s more important than ever that partners across the system work together to tackle the important issue of recruitment and retention of the essential nursing and midwifery workforce.”
The figures came as Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced nursing students would receive additional support of at least £5,000 per year to help with living costs.