The number of nurses and midwives leaving the profession has risen 51% in just four years, with those under the age of retirement citing low pay and poor working conditions. The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) said the downward trend had been most pronounced among British workers. Many leavers cited working conditions. But the government said there were now 13,000 more nurses working in England than in 2010. In April and May this year, there was a more dramatic fall in those leaving nursing and midwifery, with a further 3,264 workers going. Other than retirement, the main reasons given for leaving were working conditions – including staffing levels and workload – personal circumstances and disillusion with quality of care to patients, according to an NMC survey of more than 4,500 leavers. Other reasons included leaving the UK and poor pay and benefits. Saffron Cordery, director of policy and strategy at NHS Providers, which represents NHS trusts, said: “These figures provide further evidence of the severe workforce problems NHS trusts face. “This goes beyond the concerns over Brexit – worrying though they are. “The reduction in numbers is most pronounced among UK registrants. And it is particularly disappointing to see so many of our younger nurses and midwives choosing to leave.” She said a new staff retention programme would offer support to those NHS trusts with the highest leaving rates. “However, until we address the underlying issues driving retention problems, including the pay cap and the unsustainable workplace pressures, these approaches will only have a limited impact.” The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said poor working conditions and the “vicious cycle” of staffing levels had contributed to the number of nurses leaving the profession. RCN chief executive Janet Davies added that the NHS had resorted to a “quick fix” by bringing in “people from overseas” to fill the gap left by the lack of British nurses. She believes the decision on how much nurses are paid is political.