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Safe staffing

Safe staffing means having enough nursing staff with the right skills and knowledge, in the right place, at the right time. Without safe staffing levels in place, nursing staff are struggling to provide patients with the safe and effective care they would like to, and which patients deserve.

We've published three reports to date: Safe and Effective Staffing: the Real Picture in May 2017, Safe and Effective Staffing: Nursing Against the Odds in September 2017 and Staffing for Safe and Effective Care: Nursing on the Brink in May 2018.

Our most recent report states the principles to underpin staffing for safe and effective care, including legislation.

Our September 2017 report provides insight into the staffing levels and experience of nursing staff for over 30,000 shifts across the UK. The message was clear: when there is a shortfall of staff, patient care suffers.

We'll continue to engage with our members and the public over the coming months as we move forward with our campaign for safe and effective staffing levels in each country of the UK.

Safe and Effective Staffing: The Real Picture

RCN report from May 2017 on the current situation in the UK and what needs to be done to address the issues.

Safe and Effective Staffing: Nursing Against the Odds

RCN report from September 2017 on the findings from a survey of nursing and midwifery staff in the UK.

Staffing for Safe and Effective Care: Nursing on the Brink

RCN report from May 2018 which states the principles to underpin staffing for safe and effective care, including legislation. 

What's happening across the UK?

Safe staffing legislation which covers NHS hospitals has already been introduced in Wales. The RCN is continuing to campaign to ensure that this law improves the situation for nursing teams and their patients. The RCN is also working with the Welsh Government to extend the legislation to other areas of nursing. Watch a film about RCN Wales safe staffing campaigning to date.  

The Scottish Government published the Health and Care (Staffing) Scotland Bill in May. The RCN is reviewing the Bill and will be working through the legislative process to influence and shape the final Bill, from a professional and trade union perspective. Read more about our work on safe staffing in Scotland.

In Northern Ireland there is no law on nurse staffing levels, but the Department of Health (Northern Ireland) has outlined nurse staffing in the Delivering Care framework.

In England there is no law related to nurse staffing. NHS Trusts have not been told to use specific workforce planning tools, but resources and national guidance are used to support local decision making on staffing.

Nurses by patient

Is legislation the answer?

RCN Bulletin looks at what progress is being made across the UK to address nursing staff shortages.

Read article

Advice guide

Guidance on staffing levels in the various health and care settings in the UK.

Subject guide

Safe staffing publications, resources and journal articles collated by the RCN library.