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Using information collected from more than 100 district health authorities in England for the year 1989-1990, this paper examines turnover rates amongst a range of nursing and other staff groups in the National Health Service (NHS), and their relationship to the age and length of service characteristics of the labour force. The evidence collected suggests that the NHS employs a significantly younger workforce than is found in the economy as a whole. The age profile of nurses is even more skewed towards younger age groups than that of non-nursing staff working in the NHS. Nurses tend on average to have longer lengths of service than non-nursing staff groups, and it would seem that the average length of service has increased over the last 20 years, certainly amongst registered nurses. Overall, the study found an annual turnover rate amongst all NHS staff of 13.6%. Turnover rates were significantly higher among full-time staff than part-time, and amongst non-nursing staff groups compared with nurses. Broadly, turnover rates decline with age then rise close to retirement. However, there is a more complex relationship between length of service and turnover: turnover rates tend to be high in the first year of service, and to remain high or even rise during the second year of service, before declining. Turnover remains a poorly understood issue in the NHS. The evidence presented here should move some aspects of debate onto a more solid empirical foundation.


Journal article


J Adv Nurs

Publication Date





819 - 827


Adult, Age Factors, Female, Health Services Research, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Nursing Staff, Hospital, Personnel Turnover, Personnel, Hospital, State Medicine, Time Factors