Addressing the shortage of Nurses

Author: Dr Paula Holt MBE, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Dean of the College of Health, Psychology, and Social care

This post was originally published by the Derby University Blog on 21 May 2019.


We have re-issued the article that has already been published by the Derby University Blog. We would like to express gratitude to the kind offer of the editorial board of the Derby University Blog.

Dr Paula Holt MBE, The shortage of nurses in the UK has been described as approaching ‘crisis level’, with the NHS carrying record levels of vacancies. Dr Paula Holt, Pro Vice-Chancellor Dean of Health and Social Care at the University of Derby, explores the issue.

Figures published by the regulator NHS Improvement for the April to June 18 period showed the NHS was short of 41,722 nurses – 11.8% of the entire nursing workforce.

The combination of a reduction of applications for nursing to universities (post removal of the fees bursary), a reduction in nurses coming from the EU and an increased number of registered nurses leaving the profession have all been reported in the press as contributing to this shortfall.

In contrast, in November 2018 the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) reported that the number of nurses and midwives registered to work in the UK had increased by almost 4,000 in the past 12 months. At the end of September, 693,618 nurses and midwives were registered to work in the UK – the highest level in recent years. This increase has been fuelled by a rise in UK-trained nurses and midwives, and those trained outside the EU.

Retaining skilled nurses

As important as encouraging more people into the nursing profession is retaining the ones we have, and this is a key focus of a range of stakeholders from the Department of Health and Social Care to NHS employers. Key issues reported are flexibility of working hours and patterns to meet the increasing workforce demands for work/life balance, pay, and support for staff to develop and progress through continuing professional development.

In terms of the pipeline, universities play a significant role in enhancing the number of nursing students and are keen to support growth. We work closely as a Higher Education sector via the Council of Deans of Health with the Nursing and Midwifery Council, the Department of Health and Social Care and other stakeholders to su