Their open letter, shared with Nursing Times, asks the Tory leadership hopefuls, who will also become prime minister if they win the contest, to answer seven questions.
These include whether, if elected, they would introduce UK-wide safe staffing legislation, as currently covers Wales and Scotland but not England or Northern Ireland.
It also quizzes the candidates on whether they would restore the bursary for student nurses, reverse public health funding cuts, tackle registered nurse vacancies and increase pay.
It has been signed by a group of 13 high profile members of the college and leading activists.
Signatories include RCN fellow and past deputy president Professor Rod Thomson, Former RCN congress chair Stuart Mckenzie, RCN council member for Scotland Geoff Earl, and Dave Dawes, RCN council member for the North West of England.
Also on the list are well known RCN activist Danielle Tiplady, Zeba Arif, former chair of the RCN’s Forensic Nursing Forum and Tom Bolger, former assistant general secretary of the college.
The authors of the letter note that the answers given by the candidates, as well as “lack of answers”, will be shared with the 435,000 members of the RCN, our families, friends and professional partners.
The remaining candidates are frontrunner Boris Johnson, foreign secretary and former health secretary Jeremy Hunt, environment secretary Michael Gove, home secretary Sajid Javid, former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab, and international development secretary Rory Stewart.
The leadership contest will enter its next stage later today when a second round of voting is held in parliament. Conservative MPs will vote in a secret ballot, with a result due to be revealed after 6pm.
Any of the six remaining candidates will be eliminated from the contest if they come last or fail to secure at least 33 votes.
Remaining candidates will face further ballots later this week, where the bottom-ranked MP will be knocked out until only two candidates are left.
The final two names will then be put to a postal vote of the 160,000 Tory party members, beginning on 22 June, with the winner expected to be announced about four weeks later.
Open letter to Conservative leadership candidates
On behalf of nursing staff across the UK we should be grateful if each of you would provide your answers to the following questions. Please note that your answers, and indeed your lack of answers will be shared with the 435,000 members of the Royal College of Nursing, our families, friends and professional partners.
1. Scotland and Wales have introduced legislation to ensure that there will be safe nursing staff levels in hospital wards and community settings for both physical and mental health care. If you become prime minister, what will you do to ensure that safe staffing legislation is enacted across the entire UK?
2. There are over 40,000 vacancies for nursing staff across the UK. If you become prime minister, what will you do to ensure that these vacancies are filled with appropriately registered nursing staff?
3. Despite the 2018 pay award nursing pay has fallen significantly in real terms during your party’s time in government. If you become prime minister, what will you do to ensure that all nursing staff receive a pay award that will at least reverse this significant cut in their salary since 2010?
4. Nursing staff in Northern Ireland have been adversely affected by the lack of a devolved government. If you become prime minister, what will you do to resolve the current impasse and ensure that they receive the pay award that they deserve?
5. With the end of the nursing bursary in England there has been a significant reduction in the number of people entering under-graduate courses. If you become prime minister will you restore the bursary, and if not, what will you do to ensure that there is an effective evidence based policy for recruiting the next generation of nurses?
6. This government has highlighted the importance of public health in preventing ill health. Yet in England there are further cuts in funding and it is proposed to move the funding from the NHS to local authority business rates. Will you reverse these policies?
7. If you become prime minister will you guarantee that in any future trade deal with the US the NHS including our current system of pharmaceutical purchases will not be up for negotiation.
Professor Rod Thomson Fellow of the Royal College of Nursing and Fellow of the Faculty of Public Health. Past Deputy President Royal College of Nursing
Geoff Earl, Royal College of Nursing Council Member for Scotland
Danielle Tiplady, Royal College of Nursing activist and Registered Nurse
Zeba Arif, Royal College of Nursing Activist and Former Chair of the Forensic Nursing Forum
Mr Tom Bolger, Former Assistant General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing
Michelle Russell, Royal College of Nursing Activist
Anthony Johnson, Royal College of Nursing Activist and Health Visitor
Paul Jebb, Royal College of Nursing Member and Registered Nurse
Denise Aine, Registered Nurse and Royal College of Nursing Activist
Maureen Dolan, Royal College of Nursing Activist
Billy Nichols, Royal College of Nursing Activist, Safety Representative and Steward
Dave Dawes, Royal College of Nursing Council Member for North West
Stuart Mckenzie, Royal College of Nursing Activist