There are now more nurses leaving the NHS than joining it, figures have revealed.
Data from NHS Digital reveals that one in ten nurses are now leaving the NHS each year, with the number who left last year exceeding the number who joined by around 3,000.
According to the figures, between September 30, 2016 and September 30, 2017 the number of nurses who joined the NHS was 30,388 – but 33,440 left in the same year.
The gap was the biggest seen in the last five years, according to the figures, which were originally requested from NHS Digital by the BBC.
They show that the number of nurses leaving the NHS has gradually overtaken the number joining, but not to the extent of the figures for 2016/17.
The previous year, September 30, 2015-September 30, 2016, 32,628 nurses joined the NHS, while 32,822 left, and the previous year, 33,023 joined and 33,816 left.
In 2013/14, more nurses joined the NHS than left – with 31,618 joining the service while 30,581 left. The same went for the previous year, when 29,390 joined and 27,960 left.
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The figures for last year mark a 20% rise since 2012/13 and come as the NHS is facing huge pressures.
The data reveals that more than 10% of NHS nurses have left the health service in the past three years, compared to 9% in September 2012/13.
Royal College of Nursing head Janet Davies told the BBC the NHS was “haemorrhaging nurses” at a time when demand had never been higher.
“The next generation of British nurses aren’t coming through just as the most experienced nurses are becoming demoralised and leaving,” she said.
The figures come in the wake of a new report that revealed that growing staff shortages in mental health care are affecting the quality and safety of care.
The report by health think tank The King’s Fund said the number of mental health nurses has fallen 13% since 2009, while one in 10 of all posts in specialist mental health services are currently vacant.
Last year, one NHS trust reportedly carried out a recruitment drive to boost its workforce after losing a “very worrying” number of EU nurses in the aftermath of the EU referendum.
Oxford University Hospitals Foundation Trust was reportedly forced to recruit workers from India and the Philippines in an attempt to bring its workforce back to required levels.