Our work to address the nursing workforce crisis in England

Safe staffing saves lives

Nurses are the beating heart of our health and care services. They care for us in hospital, at our local GP surgery and in our own homes. But there aren't enough nursing staff to provide the care that patients need.

This means that essential care can be left undone - patients waiting in corridors and vital treatments delayed. When a service is short of staff, they have no option but to carry on. Our members and their colleagues do their best every day, working above and beyond, but even in a profession they love, the ongoing pressure is unsustainable.

We need investment now to recruit more nursing staff into the profession, and a change in law to protect patient care and nursing staff in the future. 

Find out more about our work to raise these issues with the government, policy makers and system leaders, and how you can get involved.

How to raise concerns

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues you may have concerns about issues that will impact patient care or safety. 
If you have concerns, you can raise them in the first instance with your manager/employer using the model letter we have developed. You can be reassured you are doing the right thing in raising your concerns, and the RCN will support you to take things further if needed.

We have also written a model raising concerns letter for nursing support workers. Other resources you may find useful are available here.

Become an e-campaigner

You'll receive regular emails with quick and easy online actions to help us campaign on the big issues facing nursing.

Fair Pay For Nursing

Find out more about the Fair Pay For Nursing campaign and how you can get involved.

Safe staffing resources

Download a safe staffing postcard, or poster, which provide key information about safe staffing and explains how to get involved in our work.

Right now, nursing needs investment. We’re calling on the Government to invest at least £1bn per year into nursing higher education to attract more people to study nursing and support current students with their courses.

We’re also campaigning to get accountability for safe staffing written into law in England. It means having a legal framework that clarifies roles, responsibilities, and accountability for the supply, recruitment, retention and pay of nursing staff and the wider workforce.

We want:

> The secretary of state for health and social care to have a specific legal duty to ensure there are enough nursing staff to meet the health needs of the population

> National NHS bodies to have a legal duty for workforce planning so that they know how many nurses and nursing staff are needed to deliver health care services

> Commissioners to have a legal duty to understand local care needs and plan staffing to meet these needs

> Providers to have a legal duty to deliver safe and effective services.

This framework should be included in a national workforce strategy produced by the Government which is fully funded and ensures growth and development of the health and care workforce in England.

There is currently no legal accountability for provision of staffing for taxpayer funded services. 

What’s more, a lack of financial support for students on nursing degrees has resulted in a worrying decline in the number of people applying to study nursing in England. 

For over a decade, our members have been warning the Government about the risks associated with not addressing the nursing shortage.

What have our members achieved so far?

We brought together members, accredited reps and RCN staff from across our nine English regions to develop our campaign in England. It's based around five key principles for UK safe staffing, which were developed in consultation with staff, members and other experts in the field. 
In September 2019 we launched a petition which gained over 100,000 petition signatures. In early February 2020, members delivered this petition to 10 Downing Street calling for urgent action to fix the nursing workforce crisis in England.
Kevin Morley

"Now is the time to bring all nursing staff together to hold the government to account. The number of petition signatures shows there is a need for change. We must have safe staffing in place to look after our patients in hospitals, the community and nursing homes."

Kevin Morley RCN Northern region member