RCN urges members to lobby for English safe staffing law

NHS England and NHS Improvement are currently consulting on changes to the Health and Social Care Act and are encouraging the public and interested organisations to have their views heard.

“The more members who take part, the louder that voice will be”

Patricia Marquis

The RCN is encouraging people to use the new online tool to send a letter asking for reform of the act to include “clearly defined powers” for the government and its arms’-length bodies.

The letter to NHS England and NHS Improvement calls for changes in the law to make the two bodies and the government accountable for ensuring there are enough nurses to provide safe care.

Safe staffing legislation has already been won in Wales and is currently being considered in Scotland.

This latest move by the college, revealed at midday, is the first action its members are being urged to take in as part of the RCN’s campaign in England.

The RCN has previously pledged to campaign for safe and effective care in each country of the UK to be enshrined in law.

Its campaign is based on five principles: accountability, numbers, strategy, plans and education, said the college.

RCN England director Patricia Marquis said: “This is an opportunity that nurses should seize.

“Their voice has a real chance of being heard and the more members who take part, the louder that voice will be – and harder for government and NHS England to ignore,” she said.

patricia marquis

patricia marquis

Source: Gareth Harmer

Patricia Marquis

“Safe staffing saves lives but, at the moment, there’s no legal provision that lays out who is responsible for sufficient numbers of registered nurses and nursing staff with the right skills to keep patients safe,” she noted.

“When there aren’t enough nurses to meet the needs of the population, there’s no one to hold to account,” said Ms Marquis.

She added: “We can’t give policy-makers a pass in future, getting by on piecemeal solutions driven by funding needs.”

The campaign was first announced last year at the RCN’s annual congress.

Meanwhile, last month members began shaping a grassroots campaign to get safe staffing enshrined in law in England.

The college highlighted this week that it will also be holding a number of regional events to discuss with members this next phase of the campaign.

In November, Nursing Times revealed that health and social care secretary Matt Hancock had said he would “look at” the possibility of introducing safe nurse staffing legislation in England.

It was believed to be the first time a minister in England had openly said they are willing to look into the idea of enshrining safe staffing in law, with the government having previously opposed such a move.

Mr Hancock said he would consider the idea during a question and answer session with members of the Royal College of Nursing last Wednesday during its Tackling Workplace Violence summit.