‘We can force change if we campaign together’

RCN Chief Executive & General Secretary Dame Donna Kinnair urges members to help safeguard the future of nursing by joining our fight for safe staffing

As a nurse, the most important thing to me is being able to deliver the care that is needed by my patients. That’s why my number one priority is to put an end to the nursing workforce crisis by getting meaningful investment to meet the needs of patients in every part of the UK. 

I will not stop until there is system-wide legislative accountability for the desperate nursing shortages each and every one of us has witnessed. This starts with ensuring our health minister has a specific responsibility for the adequate supply of nursing staff. 

Nurses have for too long witnessed politicians presiding over investment cuts to the profession, so that we are unable to recruit or attract enough nursing students, while parading up and down the country claiming to champion patient safety. 

Ministers and employers need to change the way they think. Rather than just looking at the cost of educating and employing nurses and support workers, they must think about the true cost – to people’s lives – of not investing in our profession. 

Those with power, money and authority to change this are too often found unwilling, all too happy to let the individual take the blame for failings that are genuinely systemic. We have to stop this. 

illustrator drawing Donna Kinnair 

Illustration by Jenny Robins 

Our safe staffing campaign has never been so crucial. The stakes are high, but so is our determination

Each country is in a different place on this journey. Earlier this year, a safe staffing law was passed in Scotland that applies to both health and social care settings. We had huge influence in shaping that law, and will be working hard to make sure it delivers what frontline staff need it to.

In Wales, where a law has been in place for three years, we have safe staffing champions in each health board supporting managers to enact what it says, and we’re campaigning to get it extended to more health care settings.

In Northern Ireland, our campaign for safe nurse staffing is uniquely challenging. The political impasse is making nursing pay negotiations extremely difficult. It is forcing staff to leave and exacerbating severe nurse shortages. We’re weighing up whether industrial action is the only option left to get the change we need to safeguard care.

In England, we must ramp up our campaigning efforts. While politicians have been distracted by Brexit, registered nurse vacancies have reached crisis point. There are now 40,000 in the NHS alone, and patients, as well as staff, are continuing to suffer.

Though we’re making headway with our calls for better student funding in England, we must not ease up the pressure. Our safe staffing campaign has never been so crucial. The stakes are high, but so is our determination. We must come together to force change. You can help save patients’ lives, and help save our vital profession by campaigning with us for safe nurse staffing.

Get involved

Join our safe staffing campaign to help us make a real difference to the lives of patients across the UK. 

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