RCN delivers message urging health secretary to make safe staffing law to his front door

Press Release 27/06/2019

“We need to talk”

That’s the message nursing staff gave the Health Secretary today when they delivered a giant letter signed by thousands of nursing staff concerned that England doesn’t have a law in place to guarantee safe levels of nurse staffing. 

Thousands of RCN members signed the three supersized letters, delivered to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) today, at the College’s annual Congress in May. The letter urges the Health Secretary to ensure that patient safety in England is as well safeguarded as it is in Scotland and Wales, both of which have laws setting out who is responsible for ensuring there are enough nurses with the right skills to keep patients safe. 

While the Health Secretary wasn’t available to receive the urgent message from England’s nurses in person, the letters were accepted by DHSC staff on his behalf, and the RCN expects a reply in due course.

The letters are part of the RCN’s campaign for staffing for safe and effective care. Nursing staff will take part in a more public-facing campaign over the course of the summer. 

RCN England Director Patricia Marquis said:

“When we asked thousands of delegates at Congress to make their feelings towards the Health Secretary clear, it wasn’t just for show. The message is clear – we’re at a tipping point -  and it’s endorsed by members across the nation. These are nursing staff who are starting to grow impatient with the Health Secretary because their peers in Scotland and Wales are working in conditions that are arguably safer than in England. The minister risks exacerbating the almost 40,000 vacancies in England if hard-working nurses look across the border and see a system under which they know they can do better by their patients. 

“The only way to deliver the urgent and immediate action we need, that will ensure we have the right nurses, with the right skills, working in the right places, is through legislation and we’re more than willing to work with the Health Secretary to tailor this law so it will safeguard patient safety for generations to come.”

Victoria Marshall, an A&E sister from Bath, who came to deliver the letter, said:

“I’m a nurse in A&E and our doors never stop opening. The patients keep coming , they’re all very sick, but there’s just no help, nurses just can’t keep up. We’re just not staffed properly. It’s a disaster waiting to happen.”

Hannah Fowler, an assistant practitioner from Bristol, said:

“I’ve come to raise awareness of safer staffing levels with the RCN today. We’ve tried to get the message across but it obviously hasn’t been heard. This ultimately impacts on patients as well as staff.”


Notes to Editors  

For more information about our campaign for safe staffing, click here.

For more information, photos or interviews, please contact Daniel Sutherland, Senior Media Officer, at 020 7647 3695 or email Daniel.sutherland@rcn.org.uk

The full letter is below:

Dear Matt,

We’ve got to talk.

There are 40,000 nursing vacancies in the NHS in England alone.

Patient care is suffering. Nurses are suffering. Too many are voting with their feet.

We need change. A law on safe and effective staffing can help set us all on a better path.

Wales has one. Scotland has one. When will we? We’re counting on you to champion a law in England too.


The nursing staff of England

Press Office Contacts

Daniel Sutherland, Senior Media Officer
020 7647 3695

Nick Spears, Senior Media Officer
020 7647 3696

Out of hours duty press officer
020 7647 3633