Mike Adams, Regional Director, RCN West Midlands and IAH Trustee - The RCN Campaign: Staffing for Safe and Effective Care

Ensuring the right numbers of skilled nursing staff in the right place at the right time is a laudable ambition of the new NHS Long Term Plan.

At the Royal College of Nursing we believe that this vision can only be realised if key individuals and organisations within the health care system – including the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care – are accountable in law for safe staffing levels.

There are currently around 40,000 vacancies for registered nurses in England alone, and one of the reasons for this chronic shortage is that no one is responsible for guaranteeing there is enough staff to ensure patients receive consistently safe and good quality care.

This lack of clear accountability cannot be allowed to continue.

The absence of even one pair of skilled hands on an older people’s ward, for example, can be the difference between a patient receiving care as promptly as they need it and not; the difference between being helped to the bathroom in time or too late; the difference between feeling dignified and feeling distressed or embarrassed.

The difference between a husband or wife, or son or daughter, feeling confident that their relative is safe and well cared-for, not anxious that they are unsafe and somehow even more vulnerable.

In the most recent NHS staff survey, nearly half of registered nurses and midwives said there was not enough staff in their organisation for them to do their job properly. Only 30% said there was sufficient staff.

In protecting patients from the risks of persistent staffing shortages, the legislation we want to see in place will also help to safeguard nursing staff, their practice and their wellbeing.

The time to act is now. The time for an Act is now.