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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 have published two reports to date, Safe and Effective Staffing: Nursing Against the Odds in September 2017 and Safe and Effective Staffing: the Real Picture in May 2017.

Our most recent 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 will 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 staffing

"You told us that staff shortages are compromising patient care"

RCN Chief Executive Janet Davies on the findings from our latest report and what action needs to be taken. 


Read Janet's blog

What is 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.

The Scottish Government announced in its Programme for Government that it will bring forward legislation on safe staffing. At this time the Scottish Government is working to develop this legislation. The RCN has responded to the Scottish Government’s initial proposals for the Safe and Effective Staffing Bill and is working to influence the scope and shape of the Bill, from a professional and trade union perspective.

In Northern Ireland there is no law on nurse staffing levels, but the Department of 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.
Safe staffing

Safe and Effective Staffing: Nursing Against the Odds

Based on over 30,000 responses from nursing staff, this RCN report shows how nursing staff shortages are compromising patient care.


Read report

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.

Advice guide

Guidance on staffing levels in the various health and care settings in the UK produced by the RCN advice team.

Subject guide

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