NHS staffing crisis: More than 200,000 nurses have resigned since 2010

NHS staffing crisis: More than 200,000 nurses have resigned since 2010 and the number quitting over their work-life balance has TRIPLED

  • Research by the Labour Party revealed the ‘staggering’ figures are rising
  • There has been a 73 per cent rise in staff quitting because of health concerns
  • The NHS is short of almost 40,000 nurses and patient care is suffering    
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More than 200,000 nurses have quit the NHS since 2010, official figures have revealed.

The number quitting because they’re unhappy with their work-life balance has almost tripled in the same period.

There has been a 73 per cent rise in nurses leaving for health reasons, and 69 per cent more resigned because of a lack of opportunities in 2018 than in 2011.

The damning figures come as the NHS is in the grip of a staffing and hospital crisis, with experts saying last month may have been its toughest ever.

Labour Party research has uncovered the stats and the party called them ‘utterly staggering’.

Research by the Labour Party found the number of NHS nurses resigning was 27 per cent higher in 2017-18 than it was in 2010-11 (stock image)

All NHS staff who left their jobs between 2010-11 and 2017-18 were included in the data – taking in a total of 896,917 employees, 200,586 of them nurses.

The most common reasons for nurses quitting the health service were retirement or relocation, whereas the biggest category was an unknown reason.

In 2018 2,910 nurses and health visitors quit because they didn’t like their work-life balance, up from 1,069 in 2011.

Meanwhile, 544 nurses quit for health reasons (up from 315), and 221 resigned because of a lack of opportunities (up from 131).

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There are almost 40,000 empty nurse jobs in England and these figures highlight the NHS’s struggle to hold onto the staff it already has, critics said.

‘It’s utterly staggering that our NHS has lost over 200,000 nurses under the Tories and that voluntary resignations from the NHS is up 55 per cent,’ said Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary.

‘We are facing a retention crisis in our NHS and standards which staff should expect – enshrined in the NHS Constitution – have simply been abandoned.’

A total of 26,776 NHS nurses resigned in 2017-18, up more than a quarter (27 per cent) from 21,041 in 2010-11.

During the time period covered by these statistics the Government has axed the bursaries for people studying nursing or midwifery at university.

And the budget for helping staff to develop their skills in the workplace has now been cut to a third of its value five years ago, Labour said.

A report by think-tanks the Nuffield Trust, the Health Foundation and The King’s Fund this month warned the nurse shortage could rise to 48,000 within five years without quick action.   

And it said the ambitions of the NHS published in its long term plan would be ‘impossible to achieve’ unless more nurses are hired. 

Dame Donna Kinnair, acting chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing said: ‘Health and care services are losing thousands of experienced, dedicated nursing staff who feel as if no one is sufficiently listening to their concerns and patient care is routinely compromised by chronic staff shortages. 

‘It will be impossible to grow the number of nursing students in higher education, and refresh our workforce, without a clear commitment to addressing supply and a fresh funding of at least £1billion to replace the existing flawed system.’   

Mr Ashworth added: ‘After years of pay restraint, cuts to training budgets and growing pressures it is no wonder the NHS is facing chronic shortages of 100,000 staff.

‘These shortages affect patient care every day as waiting lists grow and operations are cancelled.

‘It’s my ambition that the NHS becomes the best employer in the world.

‘It’s not only the correct thing to do to improve the quality of care of patients, it’s in our economic interest as well.’ 


Nine out of 10 NHS nurses say a shortage of staff is affecting the quality of care they can give their patients.

A poll of 2,064 staff by the industry magazine the Nursing Standard found some feel out of their depth while others feel like they have to work late to get things done. 

One anonymous nurse said: ‘Care in the profession has gone… [we’re] only interested in getting beds emptied for emergencies to come in. I’m unable to give good-quality care on a daily basis.’

The survey found 61 per cent of nurses said their employer tried to fix a staffing problem but had failed, while 83 per cent said they had reported a concern about staffing to their boss.

Not having enough staff affected the most vulnerable hospital patients, the nurses revealed.

‘We have found ourselves having to look after some really complex poorly medical patients and feeling completely out of our depth and knowledge,’ one said. 

And the problems persist in care homes, too, with one reporting they had to look after 44 residents spread across two floors for a 12-and-a-half hour shift.  

The Royal College of Nursing’s acting chief executive, Dame Donna Kinnair, said: ‘It’s hard to find a member of nursing staff, no matter where they work, who isn’t affected by unsafe staffing.

‘These results make clear that current conditions cannot continue – whether in the NHS or beyond.’  

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