Between April 2017 and March 2018 3964 people from the EU left the NMC register.
Over the same period, only 805 EU midwives and nurses joined the register compared with 6382 the year before – a drop of 87%.
At the end of March 2018 there were 690,278 midwives and nurses on the NMC register – 495 fewer than at the end of March 2017.
However, the number of UK-trained nurses and midwives registered to work appears to be stabilising after a period of continued decline. Those joining the register for the first time is at its highest level for four years while 4034 fewer people left the register.
The number of midwives and nurses joining the register from outside the EU has also risen for the fourth consecutive year with 1093 more midwives and nurses on the register compared to March 2017.
NMC chief executive and registrar Jackie Smith said: ‘The number of people from the EU leaving our register remains a major concern, despite reassuring comments from senior members of government and nurse leaders. While the picture for UK trained nurses and midwives appears to be stabilising.
‘We asked people why they were leaving and for the small number of EU nurses and midwives who responded it’s clear that Brexit is playing a part, while retirement and staffing levels are clear factors in the decision of UK nurses and midwives to leave the profession.
‘The government has announced an increase in undergraduate training places and those responsible for workforce planning should continue to look at what can be done to better support the nursing profession at this difficult time.’
The NMC surveyed 3496 people who left the register between June and November 2017 to find out their reasons for leaving.
EU midwives and nurses cited leaving the UK and Brexit as their top reasons while retirement, staffing levels and changes to personal circumstances were the main reasons for UK registrants leaving.
Commenting on the figures RCM CEO Gill Walton said: ‘The increase in the number of midwives registered to practice is more welcome news following the health secretary’s announcement of 3000 more midwives a few weeks ago.
‘What is important is that any increase in midwives feeds through to an increase in midwives actually working in the NHS, as the significant pressures on maternity services, midwives and other maternity staff remain, as the NMC survey shows. Until these increases translate to more midwives in the NHS, governments must do all they can to support and retain current NHS maternity staff.
‘It comes as no surprise to see the fall in the number of EEA midwives given the uncertainty that has surrounded their position since the referendum on EU membership; our own research shows a similarly worrying drop. This remains a major concern for the RCM and there is a pressing need to finally give EU midwives the certainty they need about their status in the UK.
‘Overall, things are moving in the right direction and the situation is starting to look positive for our maternity services.’