We have the power to pressure the government into tackling unsafe staffing levels in England.
No law exists and nobody is accountable for making sure there are enough nurses.
Only with your help can we break the cycle of staff stretched to the limit and compromised care
Power to the people
Our safe staffing campaign in England is being designed like no other campaign we’ve run before. Members are not just the foot soldiers but the campaign’s designers and strategists. They’re leading the charge locally and planning activities to make maximum impact.
Members you elected to RCN Council have made safe staffing their top priority and recently gave the green light to new campaign ideas to be unveiled later this summer.
From ward walks and workplace meetings, to press appearances and town takeovers, this campaign is about building strength in numbers and piling pressure on the government to tackle the problem of severe nurse shortages in all publicly-funded services. This includes the independent sector, care homes, prisons, community, mental health, learning disability and children's services.
Student nurse Jess is helping direct the campaign in the South East. She recently organised a workshop at the University of Southampton, bringing students from across the region together to learn about nursing workforce research, and get their ideas for how to empower people to take action.
They're so keen to support the campaign but they need quick, simple things they can do, without having to commit huge amounts of time
“The students had such fire in their bellies afterwards,” she says. “They’re so keen to support the campaign, but they need quick, simple things they can do, without having to commit huge amounts of time.
“The RCN Students Committee is now planning a series of 30-day challenges for student members, and anyone else who wants to join in. The first will be for them to get at least 10 friends or family members to sign up to be safe staffing e-campaigners.”
Over in Norwich, the plan is hold a high-profile press stunt at the cathedral, which is the final resting place of wartime nurse heroine Edith Cavell.
“We want to hold a candlelit vigil to bring together members, patients and the public,” says emergency nurse Natalie.
Whenever I speak to the public about nurse staffing issues they’re shocked
“We did this before during our pay campaign, and it really caught the imagination of local people. Whenever I speak to the public about nurse staffing issues they’re shocked to hear there is no law or anybody accountable for staffing numbers. They say they'll support us to change this.”
Illustrations by Jenny Robins
“Our campaign in England won’t be won unless it’s backed by thousands. We need to raise the alarm. Staffing levels have reached crisis point and patient care is under threat. We must take action now to prevent this crisis turning into a catastrophe. Each small action can make a big difference.”
Patricia Marquis, RCN England Director, @RCNEnglandDir
Our four-step campaign plan
- One: empower RCN members to...
- Two: activate communities to...
- Three: encourage the public to...
Escalate the issue of short staffing as a crisis locally and nationally
- Four: short staffing is recognised as a national crisis and the government is forced to act. This will lead to proper workforce planning and a law to ensure accountability for safe nurse staffing.
A little effort can go a long way
It doesn’t take much to add your voice to our campaign. Whether you have five minutes, fifteen minutes or an hour, there is something everyone can do to spread the word.
5 minutes: Find out who your MP is and tweet or email them about the importance of safe staffing.15 minutes: Chat to your workmates, family and friends about the RCN’s campaign and encourage them to sign up as e-campaigners.
1 hour: Arrange a staff meeting to discuss how you could collectively support the campaign.
Become an e-campaigner
Signing up to become an e-campaigner is the quickest and simplest way to do your bit. You'll get a monthly email with campaign updates and an easy online action to take. Sign up now.
Getting our voices heard in parliament
We hosted an event in parliament recently so members could tell MPs how urgently we need to tackle the nursing workforce crisis. More than 100 politicians turned up to hear what we had to say.
Student nurse Siobhann went along. She said: “Making do isn’t good enough anymore. I’ve been used as an extra pair of hands on placements because there simply aren’t enough nursing staff. I don’t mind that but it means I’ve lost learning opportunities because I’ve been helping with patients. It’s what I want to do but I also need to learn to be a nurse.”
Clive Lewis, MP for Norwich South, went to the event and spoke to Siobhann. He said: “The thing that’s resonated with me is that there is no responsibility when it comes to senior members of the government and that’s wrong. We need to be able to say who’s responsible and who the buck stops with. Clearly, right now, we can’t answer. That has to change.”
We're chipping away
Our campaign is already ruffling feathers in the corridors of power. Over the past few months, with your help, we’ve managed to:
- send 300 tweets to new Prime Minister Boris Johnson about the importance of safe staffing to patient care
- secure a debate in parliament about the need for accountability for the supply of nursing staff
- get the health secretary to say he'll consider a law for safe staffing
- send 10,000 emails about legislative changes needed to deliver the NHS Long Term Plan.
What do we want a new law to do?
There are 40,000 nurse vacancies in the NHS in England, and thousands more across public health, social care and the independent sector.
No one person or organisation is accountable for staffing levels and there is no legislation on this. This has to change.
We’re campaigning to get accountability for safe staffing written into English law. It means having a legal framework that clarifies roles, responsibilities, and accountability for the supply, recruitment, retention and pay of nursing staff.
- 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 and care needs of the population
- national NHS bodies to have a legal duty for workforce planning so that they know how many nurses 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.
Watch this space!
We've been testing campaign adverts to see what strikes a chord with the public. In the coming months we'll be launching an awareness campaign to get their support for our fight for safe staffing. Keep your eyes and ears peeled to find out which winning advert will be rolled out.