Nursing staff took the voices of their colleagues and the public to the heart of the Westminster government yesterday, calling for urgent action to fix the nursing workforce crisis in England.
Vicky Brotherton, a senior ophthalmic nurse at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth, was among four nursing staff who went to Downing Street to hand in petitions totalling over 220,000 signatures from frontline health care staff, their patients, as well as members of the public demanding that resolving the nursing workforce shortage in England is the highest priority for the Government.
Vicky, who is the RCN activist lead for the Staffing for Safe and Effective Care campaign South West collaborative, said: “I’m very excited to have the honour of presenting the petition to Downing Street on behalf of our south west members. I’d like to thank everyone who has engaged with the petition. We would like to get safer staffing enshrined in law in England as it is in Wales for the benefit of our patients and colleagues. I’m really glad that my local MP Luke Pollard is coming to Downing Street with me. He spent a senior nurse shift with me so he’s aware of the challenges of frontline nursing in the present climate.”
The call comes as the NHS in England operates under record nurse vacancies, which have recently topped 44,000 for the first time, and follows a General Election pledge for 50,000 more nurses in the next five years. At the last count there were 3,262 full-time registered nurse vacancies in the South West being advertised by the NHS, meaning at least 11.4% (more than one in nine) of nursing posts in the region were vacant as at last September.
The petitions are part of the RCN’s Safe Staffing campaign calling for investment now for financial accountability for the health and care workforce.
Lesley Cain, a cancer patient who has had a mastectomy who joined the RCN in handing in the petition said: “As somebody who has needed the help of the NHS I have nothing but praise for the care I received. The nurses made sure I was comfortable and were there for me every step of the way. It was clear though that they were under the most incredible pressure and they simply did not have a moment to even take a break.
“I cannot imagine what this can be like and we must start to care for those who care for us. As a patient I can tell you that I can see the pressures and I feel it is time for government demonstrate real action before it is too late.”
Mike Adams, RCN Director for England said: “The voices of nurses and the public could not be clearer, resolving the nursing workforce crisis in England must the highest priority for the Government.
“Every day, in every part of the health and care system nurses are being pushed to breaking point.
“For nurses and the people in their care, the pressures witnessed across health and care are stark and unrelenting. This can mean essential care is left undone – patients waiting in corridors and vital treatments delayed.
“We need there to be a legal responsibility to ensure there are enough nurses now and for the future to give safe and effective care to all of their patients.
“We urge the Westminster government to listen to the voices of those we have taken to the steps of Downing Street and take urgent and decisive action to resolve the nursing workforce crisis in England.”