Nurses send a safe staffing message to Matt Hancock

Hundreds at RCN congress sign giant letter calling on health secretary to back law in England

Hundreds at RCN congress sign giant letter calling for legislation in England

Picture: John Houlihan

Patients are suffering and nurses are 'voting with their feet’ and leaving the profession.

That’s the message to health and social care secretary Matt Hancock from nurses attending this year’s RCN congress in Liverpool.

Hundreds of signatures

A giant letter calling on Mr Hancock to back a safe staffing law for England was filled with signatures less than one day into proceedings at congress.

The letter reads: ‘Wales has one. Scotland has one. When will we?’

Wales was the first part of the UK to enact a nurse staffing law, which came into force in April 2018 and covers adult acute medical and surgical inpatient wards. Earlier this month, the Scottish parliament passed a staffing law that applies to all clinical groups in health and social care.

Hundreds of nurses have signed the letter, adding messages such as: ‘Be the first to say yes to safe staffing.’

Another reads: ‘What’s the plan? More cuts?’

‘Dear Matt, we’ve got to talk’: nurses’ letter to Matt Hancock

The letter in full 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


Signing in solidarity

Among those who added their names to the letter were nursing students Lucy Campbell and Charlotte Hacche from Wales.

Ms Campbell said she signed the petition in solidarity with nurses in England. ‘Wales has one, Scotland has one, but England hasn’t so we’re signing in agreement,’ she said.

In response, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson 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. 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.’

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