NHS patients ‘at risk’ unless safe staff levels guaranteed

RCN (Scotland) is calling for penalties for NHS boards missing the 12-week treatment time guarantee. Photograph: PA
RCN (Scotland) is calling for penalties for NHS boards missing the 12-week treatment time guarantee. Photograph: PA
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NHS patients across the UK will be at risk of falling care standards unless new legislation guarantees safe staffing levels, the Royal College of Nursing will announce today at its annual congress in Liverpool.

RCN chief executive and general secretary Janet Davies,right, will warn that governments across the UK must recruit and retain registered and experienced nurses to ensure patients receive high-quality care.

The call for guaranteed safe and effective staffing levels in all health and care settings across the UK comes as the RCN publishes a report on current staffing in the NHS. The report highlights the link between having the right number of registered nurses, safer care and better patient outcomes.

Davies will say: “The RCN wants to see safe staffing legislation which drives meaningful change for nursing teams and patients, ensuring that staff are not under the kind of unrelenting pressure that they are at the moment and that patients receive the best-quality care.”

Nurses suffered a real-terms pay cut last month with the imposition of the Scottish Government’s below-inflation 1 per cent pay cap.

RCN (Scotland) is also calling for NHS boards to face real penalties for missing the legal 12-week Treatment Time Guarantee for patients, which more than half of all NHS boards in Scotland missed in 2015-16.

Theresa Fyffe, director of the Royal College of Nursing in Scotland, will add: “The Scottish Government is already working constructively with the RCN on safe staffing legislation. The RCN has made clear that safe staffing cannot be achieved by simply putting existing workforce planning tools on a statutory footing.

“The workforce planning model at present is not delivering safe levels of staff for nursing teams or patients. Any legislation must have the teeth to ensure that there are consequences if safe staffing is not in place.

“The RCN will work with the Scottish Government and any decision maker who shares our ambition for safe staffing in Scotland.”

Health secretary Shona Robison said: “While NHS staffing in Scotland is at a record high, we’re committed to ensuring that we have the right staff, with the right skills, in the right place, so that safe patient-centred care is delivered across the country. There is a clear link between effective and sustainable staffing levels and quality of care. Scotland has led the UK in developing workload and workforce planning tools, but we want to go further.

“We’re currently consulting on all aspects of new NHS staffing laws to embed safe staffing principles in statute, including on effective recourse.

“This consultation seeks views from a range of groups, not least the RCN, to help us shape the law.”