Best Places for Nurses UK 2020

Nurses are essential to healthcare, and are in constant shortage. In fact the BBC reported there are 40,000 nurse vacancies in the UK, a number that is only expected to grow. In fact, nursing accounts for 1 in 9 job posts.

Nurses are specially trained, earn degrees in nursing, and are registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). Nurses specialise in adult, children, mental health, or learning disability and require a high level of technical competence, decision-making skill and compassion.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), there are over 767,000 nurse jobs in the United Kingdom. But where are the best opportunities for nurses? We ranked UK regions to determine the best areas for nurses to live and work based on average salaries, job availability and the cost of living in different areas.

Best Places in Great Britain for Nurses

Infographic showing the best regions in Great Britain for Nurses

North East

The North East tied for first place as the best region in Great Britain for nurses. Nurses in the North East earn an average of £27,997 per year—the 4th highest in Great Britain. Since the North East has the lowest cost of living (19% less than average), a nurse's salary stretches further, making it easier to afford typical living expenses compared to any other region. For example, the Pay to Cost of Living metric in the North East was 1.18—the highest in the group.

The second highest jobs density metric (ranking second to Scotland) means nurses should have a relatively easy time finding a good job. In fact, the North East hosts 22% more jobs on a per-capita basis of the working population than the UK average.

With more than two dozen NHS hospitals across County Durham, Northumberland, Tees Valley and Tyne and Wear in the North East, and one of the older populations in the UK (behind the South West, Wales and Scotland), the North East is clearly one of the best regions for nurses to call home.


Wales tied the North East as the best region for nurses. Nurses in Wales earn £28,498 a year on average; and the second lowest cost of living means that a nurse's salary goes quite a long way. In fact, the Pay to Cost of Living metric for Wales was 1.17, just 0.01 behind the North East. This makes Wales the second most affordable region to live on a nurse's salary.

39,000 jobs for 1.5 million working people means there are 25.2 nurse jobs for every 1,000 economically active people. The nursing jobs density in Wales of 25.2 is slightly less than the North East but still 12% more than the UK average, so nurses shouldn't have trouble finding work.

North West

The North West is the third best region for nurses, providing a solid concentration of nursing jobs, and good pay considering the cost of living.

Nurses earn an average of £27,963 per year in the North West, which is 4.6% less than the UK average. However a slightly lower-than-average cost of living means households spend less on typical expenses like food and housing so a nurse's pay goes further. In 2018 there were 88,000 nursing jobs in the North West, contributing to a jobs density of 24.2, which is 7.5% higher than average.

Top Regions for Nurse Jobs

Below we list the data on top regions for nurses in Great Britain. Across all metrics, higher numbers are more desirable.

Overall RankRegionAverage Annual Nurse PayNumber of Nurse JobsJobs DensityPay/Cost of Living Metric
1 (tie)North East£27,99735,00027.51.18
1 (tie)Wales£28,49839,00025.21.17
3North West£27,96388,00024.21.07
4 (tie)Scotland£26,195116,00041.71.02
4 (tie)London£32,35499,00020.40.95
5Yorkshire and The Humber£27,16359,00021.81.00
6South East£28,43992,00019.10.83
7South West£26,33962,00021.30.88
8West Midlands£25,75056,00019.11.02
10East Midlands£26,21040,00016.10.94


NimbleFins' study assessed three key factors to determine the best places in Great Britain for nurses to pursue their careers.

1. Average annual gross pay for nurses

While the average nurse earns £27,777 per year in the UK, the amount a nurse earns depends on where they live. In order to determine the best regions for nurses, we took into account the average annual gross pay for nurses in each area—the higher the pay, the higher a region ranked in our survey for nurses.

2. Nursing job density per region

Nurses have special skills so regions with a higher concentration of nursing jobs relative to the working population are more desirable and rank higher in our study.

In 2018, there were 767,000 nurse jobs in the United Kingdom according to the Office for National Statistics. There were 34,071,000 economically active people in the United Kingdom, making the jobs density for nurses 22.5 in the UK—this means there are 22.5 nurse jobs for every 1,000 working people in the UK. We calculated this by dividing the number of nurse jobs by the working population (767,000 divided by 34,071,000, then multiplying by 1,000 so the result is "jobs per thousand people"). The jobs density per region ranges from 16.1 in the East Midlands to 41.7 in Scotland.

3. Pay/Cost of living index per region

In determining the best places for nurses, it is important to understand how easily a nurse can afford essentials like housing, transportation, food and entertainment, as affordability plays a large role in our quality of life. To reflect the cost of living in different regions, we adjusted nursing salaries in this study by the average household spending per region so that regions with a lower cost of living rank higher. The Pay/Cost of Living metric reflects the average nursing gross pay divided by the average household expenditure.