Expert advice

Workforce: England is falling behind on safe staffing

Health secretary Matt Hancock would do well to follow the examples from other countries – including our closest neighbours 
An illustration of a nurse standing on a ward with a red flag

Health secretary Matt Hancock would do well to follow the examples from other countries – including our closest neighbours

At a recent RCN conference on assaults on emergency workers, health and social care secretary Matt Hancock suggested he may examine the possibility of introducing safe nurse staffing legislation.

Will this lead to progress? The starting point is to recognise that there has been little national strategic direction on securing safe staffing levels in England in recent years.

In the face of unprecedented nurse shortages, NHS England has continued to be hands off at a national level. It emphasises local flexibilities – ‘one size doesn’t fit all’ – and local responsibilities to determine localised, evidence-based, methods of achieving safe staffing.

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