Key points

  • Data obtained by Nursing Standard and the Health Foundation show that of 19,566 UK nursing students who began three-year degrees due to finish in 2018, a total of 4,695 left their courses early or suspended their studies.
  • The average nursing student attrition rate in the UK is therefore 24.0%. A similar analysis conducted last year showed that the attrition rate for courses finishing in 2017 stood at 24.8%.
  • The attrition rate has also been broken down by country, region and nursing branch.

Data obtained by Nursing Standard and the Health Foundation show that of 19,566 UK nursing students who began three-year degrees due to finish in 2018, a total of 4,695 left their courses early or suspended their studies.

The average nursing student attrition rate in the UK is therefore 24.0%. A similar analysis conducted last year showed that the attrition rate for courses finishing in 2017 stood at 24.8%.

Previous research has shown students who leave their courses cite reasons such as finances, academic issues, placement quality, workload and lack of support.

Earlier this year, a report from the Health Foundation, together with The King’s Fund and the Nuffield Trust, called on the government to significantly increase the financial support available to nursing students with ‘cost of living’ grants of around £5,200 a year, in addition to the means-tested loan system.

Analysis like this can help us understand the rates of nursing students leaving or suspending their training, and how it varies by institution, area, and branch of nursing.

However, some caution should be taken into interpreting data from FOI requests. This is partly due to the fact that not all institutions responded, and those that did may be different from those that didn’t. They may have also understood the question differently. In particular small differences between geographies and branches should not be overinterpreted and may not be significant. For this reason we have mostly focused our analysis on the overall level of attrition in the UK. Until attrition data are routinely made publicly available at good levels of detail, this will still be the best approach to understanding the rates of attrition across the UK.

Discover

REAL Centre

Discover

The Health Foundation’s REAL Centre is here to support better long-term decision making in health...

REAL Centre

Further reading

Press release

Nursing students are still dropping out in worrying numbers

4 September 2019
Press release

Analysis by Nursing Standard and the Health Foundation shows that despite political pledges to...

Video

Watch: 'I left my nursing training after the first year because of the negative experience I had'

Video

Why are so many nursing students failing to complete their training? Charlotte explains why despite...

Research report

Closing the gap

March 2019
Research report

Staffing is the make-or-break issue for the NHS in England. This report sets out a series of policy...

Research report

A critical moment

February 2019
Research report

Our third annual report analysing the staff profile and trends in the NHS workforce in England in...

You might also like...

Press release

Latest figures suggest the NHS is being tested to its very limits

Press release

Health Foundation response to NHS England’s monthly performance statistics.

Press release

Risk to pandemic recovery due to nursing shortages

Press release

A new report published today by the Health Foundation’s REAL Centre raise concerns that the nursing...

Consultation response

Workforce burnout and resilience in the NHS and social care

Consultation response

Health Foundation response to the Health and Social Care Committee on the need for a comprehensive...

Kjell-bubble-diagramArtboard 101 copy

Get social

RT @Reema__Patel: *****Job Klaxon! ***** New @AdaLovelaceInst Senior Researcher role on Justice and Equalities, which includes working wit…

Follow us on Twitter
Kjell-bubble-diagramArtboard 101

Work with us

We look for talented and passionate individuals as everyone at the Health Foundation has an important role to play.

View current vacancies
Artboard 101 copy 2

The Q community

Q is an initiative connecting people with improvement expertise across the UK.

Find out more