Congress supports push for safe staffing laws

Long debate ends with decision to push UK governments to follow example set by Wales 

The RCN has voted to lobby UK governments to enact safe staffing laws along the same lines as the one adopted in Wales earlier this year.

Members at the annual congress in Glasgow today voted almost unanimously – there was 1 abstention and 1 against – to accept the resolution from UK stewards’ committee.

Just a short time later Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon announced her country is already planning to follow Wales’ example.

Member Michael Smith had proposed the rest of the UK adopt their own version of the Nurse Staffing Levels (Wales) Bill which Liberal Democrat assembly member Kirsty Williams successfully introduced in March.

Keen participation

The debate was the most keenly participated in so far with 34 members accepted to speak by congress chair Stuart McKenzie.

RCN Wales Board representative for Glamorgan Christine Edward-Jones seconded the motion and said: ‘When nursing speaks with one voice, we are heard.’

In a debate lasting almost an hour members discussed the remit for the lobbying; with particular focus on skill mix, community nursing, halting the over-reliance on nursing students to staff wards and the effect on nurses’ health of working in under-staffed wards.

One member asked why it had taken so many years for the college to take action over safe staffing while another said health secretary Jeremy Hunt should be ‘ashamed’ for putting the cost of healthcare above patients and staff.


Lothian branch member Emma Eccles won loud cheers and applause for adapting the lyrics of Scottish band The Proclaimers to explain how she’ll gladly ‘nurse 500 hours and 500 more’ but warned of the effect overworking has on nurses like herself.

Emma Eccles
Photo: John Houlihan

Former RCN president Andrea Spyropoulos apologised to members for not having secured safe staffing measures during her time and urged the public to help force the government’s hand by ‘being out on the streets demanding that nurses are available for you’.

In England safe staffing guidance was being developed by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) until last year when it was transferred to the chief nursing officer Jane Cummings.

She included a pledge to have ‘the right staff, in the right place, at the right time’ in her new nursing framework Leading Change, Adding Value launched last month.

Ms Williams was made an honorary fellow of the RCN on Saturday for her work on behalf of nurses.

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