Safe staffing campaign will spark a nursing nuclear reaction

Professor Anne Marie Rafferty CBE 20 Feb 2019 Prof Anne Marie Rafferty RCN President Safe staffing

Our call for legislation in all four countries of the UK has the potential to be one of the most potent campaigns the College has ever run, says RCN President Anne Marie Rafferty.

Nuclear reaction
We’d gathered to discuss the campaign on staffing for safe and effective care and, in particular, what needs to be done to secure a new law in England, following success in Wales and recent progress in Scotland.
In the room were representatives from all four fields of nursing: students, newly qualified nursing staff and more experienced hands; heath care assistants; people from the NHS and independent sector staff too.
It was great to hear directly from members about how staffing impacts on them and I was impressed by the knowledge and enthusiasm in the room.
It’s obvious, in our minds at least, how essential legislation for nurse staffing levels is across the UK, not only for the wellbeing of our patients but for the wellbeing of staff as well.
Fortunately for our campaign, there’s been a notable shift in attitudes towards nurse staffing levels in recent years as regulators recognise the need for guidance to help providers meet their duty to deliver safe patient care.
The logical next step is to give that guidance teeth with laws that set out clear responsibility and accountability and consequences for when standards fall short.
The evidence is there – we just need to make sure we continue to refresh it, and use it to engage the public, fellow health professionals, politicians and even other RCN members.
The will of RCN members is there too – we just need to make sure the pulse and energy of our members – our very own nursing nuclear reaction – pullulates across the UK, gathering momentum as more and more members get involved.
It took more than 20 years for smoking to become socially unacceptable – something that was simply unimaginable all those years ago. The people behind the campaign – ASH – could not have foreseen where their movement would end up.
This doesn’t mean our campaign will take two decades, but we must be realistic and understand that creating real culture change takes time, an awful lot of hard work, dynamism and a dose of luck, too.
We have the power to create real change. We can see that already in the strides we’ve made with legislation in Wales, draft legislation in Scotland and the groundwork that’s been laid in Northern Ireland.
When we look back in years to come, this could be one of the most potent campaigns the College has ever run.
I think that’s incredibly exciting.

Further reading

Find out more about safe staffing across the UK and join the campaigns in England, Scotland and Wales.

Professor Anne Marie Rafferty

Professor Anne Marie Rafferty CBE

RCN President


Anne Marie is Professor of Nursing Policy at the Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing, Midwifery and Palliative Care at King’s College London. 
Professor Rafferty has been involved in the RCN since she was a student in 1977. She has previously acted as an RCN representative on the Health Quality Improvement Partnership and currently acts as a member of the Safe Staffing Expert Reference Group. She was named one of the 70 most influential nurses in 70 years of the NHS.

Page last updated - 15/05/2020