Your web browser is outdated and may be insecure

The RCN recommends using an updated browser such as Microsoft Edge or Google Chrome

Demanding action on nurse staffing

Pat Cullen 28 Apr 2022 Chief Executive and General Secretary

Pat Cullen, Interim RCN General Secretary and Chief Executive, updates members on work across the UK to address the impact caused by the ongoing workforce crisis across health and social care. 

Today is International Workers’ Memorial Day – we held a minute’s silence at midday to remember those health care staff who have lost their lives during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nursing staff across the UK have carried the heavy burden of COVID-19 – working in hospitals, care homes, general practice, the community and beyond. Too many of our colleagues have lost their lives and we must never forget their dedication and care to patients and the profession. The upcoming COVID-19 public inquiry must recognise the sacrifices nursing staff made to protect patients and their own families and the undue risk that health care workers continue to face.  

As the voice of nursing, we are committed to challenging politicians across the UK to address the issues facing our profession. In advance of the Northern Ireland Assembly election next week, we co-hosted a joint hustings event with the Royal College of Surgeons yesterday to press election candidates from across Northern Ireland’s political spectrum on their manifesto commitments and how they will improve the situation facing Northern Ireland’s health service and its staff. The event was a strong show of solidarity from the RCN and Royal College of Surgeons  - the two leading health organisations in Northern Ireland. We are united in our calls to make workforce the number one priority for new MLAs in the next mandate of the Northern Ireland Assembly. 

Thanks to your support, we have exceeded 10,000 signatures for our #FortheFullTeam petition in Wales. The petition will be considered for a debate in the Senedd – we are calling to extend section 25B of the Nurse Staffing Levels (Wales) Act 2016 to other clinical areas. The petition remains open until 12 May so there is still time to sign if you haven’t already. We have also launched the annual RCN Wales Nurse of the Year Awards this week – find out how to submit your nominations.

On Tuesday, the Health and Care Bill completed its last stage of debate in the House of Lords. Unfortunately, the amendments we have been lobbying for were not included in the final bill – and we expect the bill to become law today. It is deeply disappointing that our changes were not included – but we will continue to demand action on behalf of nursing, our patients and the public as the law is enacted.  

Earlier this week, I joined a meeting with leading academics in the field of nursing and workforce planning to continue to explore how the RCN will define our position on safe staffing. We will continue to lead the way in developing resources and tools to support you and to help challenge unsafe clinical practice where patient care and treatment may be compromised. We expect professional judgement to be taken into full consideration when determining the staffing levels required in any health and care area. The College will continue to work with our leading experts to drive this work forward. And I hope to work with as many of you as possible to create the change our profession and patients deserve. When you have concerns, you will always have my personal support and the weight of the RCN behind you to raise them.

And finally, I was delighted to speak to stewards, safety reps and learning reps in Scotland at their virtual annual conference yesterday. The conference focused not only on how our reps continue to support our members, but also how important it is for our reps to look after themselves. Reps across the UK have been standing up for members in their local areas throughout COVID-19, while continuing to work under considerable pressures. I was pleased to have the opportunity to thank them for their commitment to their profession and fellow RCN members – as well as updating them on our organisational priorities for the year ahead and work to recruit more members into our rep roles. 

Pat Cullen

Pat Cullen

General Secretary and Chief Executive

Pat has worked at the RCN since 2016. Before being appointed General Secretary and Chief Executive, Pat was Director of RCN Northern Ireland from May 2019 to April 2021.

Page last updated - 28/04/2022