The media has been full of stories recently about the shortage of nurses and midwives faced in the UK. In November, the Nursing & Midwifery Council (NMC) released a report showing that the number of EU nurses on the register has declined by 2,700 in the last year. This is apparently due to a 67% increase in the number of EU nurses leaving and an 89% drop in the number applying to work in the UK, all apparently due to uncertainties over Brexit. 
Alarming as this may seem, the 36,000 plus EU nationals registered with the NMC account for less than 4% of the nursing workforce in the UK.  More alarming is the overall decline in the number of nurses and midwives registered in the UK. NMC figures show this has declined by around 1,700 this year.  This is the first decline in over a decade. This is partly because fewer nurses are training and qualifying; partly because more are leaving before retirement; and partly because a large proportion of the workforce are at, or approaching, retirement age.
While the government insists that there will be more training places (up to 25%), the ending of bursaries has, at least in the short-term, reduced the number of those starting training. It is clear that a significant proportion of those leaving the professions for reasons other than retirement are experienced nurses and midwives in their early fifties, meaning there is an attrition of skilled staff.
The main reasons for leaving are not pay, but stress and the impact of staff shortages on the quality of care these professionals are able to give. These stresses are not unique to nurses - we hear similar reports from junior doctors. It is not just a funding issue; many of these problems were emerging during times of record investment in the NHS in the last decade.
The core values of the nursing profession are deeply Christian in their origins.  However, the increasingly technical, acute and high throughput model of medicine under which the NHS operates today makes this hard to live out in practice. This dissonance between the values of patient-centred, whole person care on the one hand and a technological, protocol driven medicine on the other, is increasingly difficult for nurses, doctors and other health professionals to reconcile. Until we can address this and answer what kind of model of health care we really want and can deliver, we will continue to struggle with a long-term solution. 
Review by Steve Fouch CMF Connections Manager