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Join our campaign for safe staffing

The UK picture

We're calling for safe and effective care to be enshrined in law in each UK country. 

Safety critical nurse-to-patient ratios

The evidence is clear. The risk of death increases by 3% each day a patient experiences a registered nurse staffing shortage. We need staffing levels that protect nursing staff and patient safety.
5 nurses

Calling for safe staffing across the UK


In England there is no law related to nurse staffing. 

The RCN is campaigning for legislation to guarantee nurse staffing levels in England across all sectors and settings. 

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The Nurse Staffing Levels (Wales) Act 2016 was the first law of its kind in the UK. It requires health boards to provide sufficient nursing staff so that all patients can receive sensitive care. Section 25B defines the appropriate number of nurses for children's wards and adult medical and surgical wards.

RCN Wales continues to campaign for the extension of Section 25B to new settings, particularly mental health inpatient wards, community nursing, and care homes.

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In June 2019 the Health and Care (Staffing) (Scotland) Act became law, the first legislation in the UK to set out requirements for safe staffing across both health and social care services.

Implementation has been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Following sustained pressure from RCN Scotland, the Scottish government has now published a timetable for implementation. The timetable sets out a 21-month programme of work which will see the Act come into force from April 2024.

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Northern Ireland

Following industrial action during 2019/2020 to achieve pay equality and safe staffing, the priority for RCN Northern Ireland is to hold the Department of Health and Northern Ireland Executive to account for the delivery of the Health Minister’s safe staffing framework, particularly in relation to the implementation of safe staffing legislation.

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RCN Nursing Workforce Standards

The RCN's Nursing Workforce Standards are the first national blueprint for tackling the nursing staff shortage levels across the UK. They set the standard for excellent patient care and nursing support in all settings, and all UK countries.
 A blue background with white text that reads: "Nursing workforce standards: supporting a safe and effective nursing workforce."

Tell us your story

How are staffing levels and low pay affecting you right now? How is the cost-of-living crisis and the remnants of a global pandemic impacting your work and life? Capture your lived experience with our easy-to-use tool and help tell the true story of UK nursing.

Working time and rest breaks

Read our advice guide on working time and breaks

Raising concerns letter for nurses

A template letter for nurses who want to raise concerns about issues they are concerned could impact patient care or safety.

Our principles for staffing for safe and effective care

We want it to be clear whose job it is to make sure there are enough nurses to meet patients’ needs.

We want the right number of nurses, with the right skills, to be in the right place, at the right time - so patients’ needs are met .

We want a vision for tackling nurse shortages and making sure nursing helps meet the whole country’s health needs.

We want clear plans for getting the right numbers and skill mix of nursing staff and we want checks to make sure they really happen.

We want governments to educate enough nursing students, and develop existing staff, to meet patients’ needs.

Find out more about our safe staffing campaign


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Subject guide

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

Advice guide

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