Nurse and midwife numbers decline for first time in a decade
More NHS nurses and midwives are leaving the profession than joining, worsening the "severe workforce problems" faced by NHS trusts.
In the year to March the overall number registered in the UK fell by 1,783, leaving the total at 690,773.
Research from the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) found the main reasons for leaving, apart from retirement, were poor working conditions, personal reasons and concerns about the quality of care offered to patients.
While some have blamed Brexit for a fall in nurse registrations, the NMC said the trend had been most clear among British staff.
The Department of Health said there were 13,000 more nurses in the NHS now than in 2010, with over 50,000 in training.
But NHS Providers, the body representing trusts, said the figures were evidence of serious problems with recruitment and retention of workers.
"These figures provide further evidence of the severe workforce problems NHS trusts face," said director of policy and strategy Saffron Cordery.
"This goes beyond the concerns over Brexit - worrying though they are.
"The reduction in numbers is most pronounced among UK registrants. And it is particularly disappointing to see so many of our younger nurses and midwives choosing to leave."
The NHS is introducing a new staff retention programme to help areas with the highest leaving rates.
But Ms Cordery said this would have a "limited impact" unless the Government also looks at pay levels and the pressures on medical professionals.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: "We are making sure we have the nurses we need to continue delivering world-class patient care - that's why there are almost 13,100 more on our wards since May 2010 and 52,000 in training.
"We also know we need to retain our excellent nurses and earlier this week we launched a national programme to ensure nurses have the support they need to continue their vital work."
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