Thousands of nurses have signed a letter to health and social care secretary Matt Hancock calling on him to back their campaign for safe staffing legislation in England.
On display at the Royal College of Nursing’s annual congress throughout this week, the giant letter warns Mr Hancock that patients and nurses are suffering due to workforce shortages.
As well as their names, signatories added powerful messages including “change is needed” and “please listen to our nursing staff, they need your support”.
The letter reads:
We’ve got 40,000 nursing vacancies in the NHS in England alone.
Patient care is suffering. Nurses are suffering. Too many are voting with their feet.
We need to change. A law on safe and effective staffing can help set us all on a better path.
Wales has one. Scotland has one. When will we? We’re counting on you to champion a law in England too.
The nursing staff of England.
The RCN is undertaking a campaign to secure legislation for safe and effective staffing across the whole of the UK.
Wales become the first country in the UK to introduce such a law in 2016, and Scotland followed suit last month.
At the end of last year, Mr Hancock committed to “look at” the possibility of enshrining safe staffing in law in England after being pressed on the matter by the RCN.
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However, Nursing Times understands that the government has made no progress on this so far.
Responding to the letter, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: ”The Care Quality Commission requires that all healthcare providers have appropriate staffing levels and our long-term plan sets out how we will ensure the NHS stays the safest healthcare system in the world.
“We remain committed to transparency around nurse staffing levels which is why ‘Care Hours Per Patient Day’ data was introduced in 2016,” he added.
”This improved data is now the primary measure of staffing levels, and allows trusts to better deploy nurses, midwives and healthcare support staff on hospital wards to ensure the best possible care for patients,” the spokesman said.
Earlier at the conference, the leader of the college pledged that she would “not stop” until ministers took decisive action to end the workforce crisis.
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In her speech on the opening day of this year’s RCN congress, chief executive and general secretary Dame Donna Kinnair said that the goodwill of nurses that has been keeping the system afloat is wearing thin.
She told the audience of 3,000 members in Liverpool that England must follow in the footsteps of Scotland and Wales, and put safe staffing accountability into law.
“We will not stop until people are held to account for the desperate shortages each and every one of us has witnessed,” she said. “Politicians must stop short-changing the public. They must stop the rot and put an end to the workforce crisis in nursing.
”The RCN’s campaign in England has been running for several months and is being designed like no other campaign the college has tried before,” she said. ”Members are not just the foot soldiers this time but the campaign’s leaders, designers, tacticians and strategists.
“In just a matter of days, 10,000 of you sent long, detailed emails to NHS officials on what must change in England. Every day at congress, we’ve got lunchtime fringe events on the campaigns, reflecting on all countries,” she addded.