Number of London nurses leaving NHS rises by 24% in a year

NHS working in a hospital (Stock image)  (PA Wire)
NHS working in a hospital (Stock image) (PA Wire)

The number of nurses leaving the NHS in London has increased by more than 24 per cent in a year, according to figures from NHS Digital.

A total of 7,239 nurses left the health service in the capital in the year up to June 2022 – a steep rise from 5,810 the year before.

The Standard’s analysis found that only 7,786 joined the NHS in London during the period, meaning the capital has only added 547 nurses despite grappling with a record backlog in hospital treatment and growing pressure on A&E departments.

More than 40,000 nurses left NHS England in total, with just 4,000 more joiners than leavers. The highest proportion of leavers were aged 30-34 and then 25-29, suggesting many are quitting the profession early in their career.

The figures underline the scale of the staffing shortages facing Britain’s hospitals heading into the winter period, with nurses complaining of burnout and insufficient pay.

The Royal College of Nurses (RCN) will ballot 300,000 of its members next Thursday over possible strike action in a dispute over pay. The union says it is the first time its members have voted on industrial action in its hundred-year history.

Meanwhile, a study published on Friday by NHS Providers found that two thirds (68 per cent) of trusts were reporting a “significant or severe impact” from staff leaving for better paid jobs in retail and hospitality.

Staff are also struggling to afford to go to work, with 71 per cent of trust managers surveyed saying this was having a significant or severe impact on their trust.

Miriam Deakin, director of policy and strategy at NHS Providers, said a number of trusts were providing food banks for staff in lower pay bands struggling with the cost of living crisis.

“There are heart-rending stories of nurses choosing between eating during the day and being able to buy a school uniform for their children at home.”

The Nuffield Trust, a think tank, said the Government would struggle to hit its target to recruit 50,000 nurses in England during this Parliament.

Dr Billy Palmer, from the think tank, told the BBC the data is an “urgent wake-up call” and suggested there are “deep-rooted issues with working practices and employment conditions” that are leading nurses to quit.

“While every year we would expect nurses to retire, it is very concerning to see the numbers who cite the reasons for considering or actually leaving as health concerns or work-life balance,” he added.