Exploring the dynamics of the nursing and midwifery workforce

Status: Active

Categories: ADR Scotland, Health & wellbeing

6 April 2023

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) holds a register of all nurses, nursing associates and midwives across the United Kingdom. Maintaining the register requires registrants to revalidate every three years. Each point involves the collection of data. 

This data provides an overview of the register that can inform policies designed to better support registrants in these key professions. The three yearly updates essentially turn the database into a longitudinal dataset. Analysis can then investigate who comes onto the register, who leaves, how long they remain on the register, and differences based on demographic or professional characteristics.

Resulting data provides a basis for workforce-related research. Opportunities are expanded markedly by enabling the linkage of other datasets. A first project will make available the NMC Register linked to the 2021 Census for England and Wales, which will be accessible through the Office for National Statistics Integrated Data Service. We are working closely with the NMC and national statistical bodies to enable accredited researchers to take forward analysis of this data for public good.

The data

The primary data sources for this research include:

Nursing and Midwifery Council Register - This dataset offers a detailed view of the registered nurses, nursing associates, and midwives, including their demographics, qualifications, and professional status. It will be used to understand the current profile of the nursing and midwifery professions in the UK, and to understand their dynamics - especially which groups are likely to leave.

2021 Census for England and Wales: This provides a rich background of social and demographic data that complements the professional details from the NMC Register. 

2022 Census for Scotland with household data:  This data source provides social and demographic data that complements the professional details from the NMC Register, but will also provide additional historical context and financial insights.

Initial research

SCADR are taking forward a number of research projects to make early use of these data resources. The aims of those projects are to (a) provide insights into the data to facilitate and encourage other researchers; and (b) to showcase the policy potential of the data.

Two early projects with NMC Register data alone are looking to provide initial insights into the demographic composition of the register at regional levels. Analysis will provide figures for nurses, nursing associated, and midwives. It will further draw on the longitudinal dimensions of the data to compare indicators of retention and recruitment.

A further project will use the linked NMC – 2021 Census of England and Wales dataset. This project will assess the proportion of registrants who were engaged in clinical practice at point of census enumeration. Further analysis will assess the range of occupations held by those on the register. Importantly, it will also assess what influences engagement in clinical practice.


An important part of this work has involved collaboration with key stakeholders. A stakeholder group was formed early in this project. We are grateful to colleagues from the NMC and representatives of statistical agencies, government, and representative organisations for their involvement. Representation has been drawn from the Office for National Statistics, Royal College of Nursing, Chief Nurses Offices and others. 

Public involvement is an important component of this work. To that end, we have discussed this work with SCADR’s public engagement group. This has enabled us to talk through how the data is being used with a cross-section of the general public. Our intention is to widen that engagement through the development of a new engagement group, with membership drawn from nursing and midwifery professions.

Future developments

The NMC Register is a valuable resource to help understand the nursing and midwifery workforces across the United Kingdom. To enable wider benefits, we are working closely with the Nursing and Midwifery Council, as well as national statistical agencies including the Office for National Statistics, Research Data Scotland, and Secure Anonymised Information Linkage (SAIL) Databank in Wales. The end goal is to make anonymised data available in secure settings for accredited researchers more widely.

ADR UK is funding fellowships based on ADR England flagship datasets. The project team has worked closely with the ADR UK Strategic Hub to ensure that the NMC – 2021 Census for England and Wales dataset is in scope. Our vision is that its inclusion will enable a wide range of policy-relevant research. This will further our goal of realising the potential of this data to the benefit of nurses, nursing associates, midwives, and the wider public.

Project details

Project leads: Iain AthertonMichelle JamiesonJan Savinc

This project is funded by ADR Scotland via its core grant from the Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC) as an ADR UK partner.

About the Scottish Centre for Administrative Data Research 

The Scottish Centre for Administrative Data Research (SCADR) analyses data from across the public sector, exploring what linking it in new ways can reveal. It is hosted by the University of Edinburgh but involves academic researchers from across Scotland. SCADR together with the Scottish Government forms ADR Scotland, part of the ADR UK partnership.

Categories: ADR Scotland, Health & wellbeing

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