Safe nurse staffing petition delivered to health secretary’s door

They delivered three supersized letters signed by thousands of nursing staff to the Department of Health and Social Care today.

“The message is clear – we’re at a tipping point”

Patricia Marquis

The letters all beared the same message and they were placed on display at the Royal College of Nursing congress in May for members to sign.

They urge Mr Hancock to follow in the footsteps of his counterparts in Wales and Scotland and bring in legislation to ensure safe and effective staffing.

A group of RCN members led by the college’s president Anne Marie Rafferty and England director Patricia Marquis took the petition to the DHSC headquarters in London this afternoon.

While Mr Hancock was not available to receive the delivery in person, the letters were accepted by department staff on his behalf and the RCN expects a reply in due course.

The initiative is part of the RCN’s campaign for staffing for safe and effective care across the UK. Nursing staff will take part in a more public-facing campaign over the course of the summer.

Patricia Marquis, director of RCN England, said: “When we asked thousands of delegates at congress to make their feelings towards the health secretary clear, it wasn’t just for show. 

patricia marquis safe staffing

patricia marquis safe staffing

Source: Royal College of Nursing

RCN England director Patricia Marquis

“The message is clear – we’re at a tipping point  – and it’s endorsed by members across the nation,” she added.

Ms Marquis said the lack of legislation in England risked exacerbating the almost 40,000 vacancies because nurses could be tempted to migrate to Scotland or Wales where laws were in place. 

“The only way to deliver the urgent and immediate action we need, that will ensure we have the right nurses, with the right skills, working in the right places, is through legislation and we’re more than willing to work with the health secretary to tailor this law so it will safeguard patient safety for generations to come,” she added.

“We’ve tried to get the message across but it obviously hasn’t been heard”

Hannah Fowler

Victoria Marshall, an accident and emergency department sister from Bath, who came to deliver the letter, said the staffing shortages were a “disaster waiting to happen”.

“The patients keep coming, they’re all very sick, but there’s just no help, nurses just can’t keep up,” she said.

Also in attendance was Hannah Fowler, an assistant practitioner from Bristol, who said: “I’ve come to raise awareness of safer staffing levels with the RCN today.

“We’ve tried to get the message across but it obviously hasn’t been heard,” she added. “This ultimately impacts on patients as well as staff.”

A DHSC spokeswoman said: “It is already a requirement for hospitals to have the right staff, in the right place, at the right time and our long-term plan sets out how we will ensure the NHS stays the safest healthcare system in the world.

“If care falls below the required standard, the chief inspector of hospitals can impose conditions to support trusts to achieve safe levels of staffing,” she added. 

The full letter reads: 

Dear Matt,

We’ve got to talk.

There are 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 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