RCN delivers giant letter on safe staffing to Matt Hancock

The letter was signed by thousands of nurses at this year’s congress

The letter was signed by thousands of nurses at this year’s congress

The letter was delivered to the DHSC in London. Photo: Gareth Harmer/RCN

A giant letter signed by thousands of nurses calling on health and social care secretary Matt Hancock to back a safe staffing law in England has been delivered to the heart of government.

RCN members took the letter – which was signed by members attending RCN congress in May – to the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) in London.

Safe regions

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

Wales’ nurse staffing law was implemented in April 2018 for adult acute medical and surgical inpatient wards. 

In May this year, Scotland’s safe staffing law was passed and covers all clinical groups, in health and social care services.

No sustainability

RCN president Anne Marie Rafferty was among the nurses who presented the letter.

‘The safe staffing law is so important because we have few other policy levers that we can pull to provide safe and effective care for patients,’ she told Nursing Standard.

‘Last year, more nurses were leaving than joining the profession. We are leaking talent at the top of the profession, as well as having structural weakness at the bottom and a wobbly middle, whichever way you look at it, it is not spelling out sustainability for the future.’

Public support

RCN interim director for England Patricia Marquis said: ‘There aren’t enough nurses to care for people and it’s important that that’s improved because patients aren’t getting the care they need and deserve.’

Deputy Labour Party leader Tom Watson also went along to lend his support. 

Among the front-line nurses who took part was Michael Coram, a staff nurse from Hackney, London.

‘This battle is going to be won with the support of the public,' he said. 'The public is going to be crucial, getting the message out there is going to be an important part of it.’

From left: Kafeelat Adekunle, community matron; Danielle Tiplady, staff nurse;
Anne Marie Rafferty, president of the RCN; Patricia Marquis, RCN interim director,
England; Michael Coram, staff nurse. Photo: Gareth Harmer/RCN

Powerful message

Community matron Kafeelat Adekunle from London added: ‘It's a powerful letter. My signature is on there, I feel like signing it 100 times so that message could be passed across. I hope they listen because we are losing staff, due to long-term illness, fatigue and stress.'

In response to the RCN delivering the letter, a DH spokesperson 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.’

‘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

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