Patients at risk without laws on safe staffing levels, nursing leaders warn

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NHS patients will be at risk of falling care standards unless they have the legislation to guarantee safe staffing levels, according to nursing leaders.

Janet Davies, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, will warn that governments in all four UK countries must recruit and retain registered and experienced nurses to ensure that patients get the high quality care that they need.

The warning comes as the Royal College of Nursing publishes a report on current staffing in the NHS. The document highlights a "clear and evidenced link" between having the right number of registered nurses, safer care and better patient outcomes.

Ms 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."

Theresa Fyffe, director of the Royal College of Nursing in Scotland, is expected to say: "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."

Shona Robison, Scottish Health Secretary 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."