The government says the RCN must work to improve standards instead of as a union for nurses after they hit out at new training plans.
As the government and nursing unions fight over how best to improve care, ITV News asked viewers to share their experiences.
More than half of nurses think their ward or unit is dangerously understaffed, a Nursing Times survey revealed today.
Hundreds of hospitals do not have enough nurses to care for patients properly, according to analysis of staffing levels by The Times.
Research found that 43 per cent of NHS wards have only one nurse for every eight patients, a figure flagged up in the "red zone" of a recent government safety report.
Experts have also warned that elderly care statistics showing on average more than 9.1 patients per nurse, could compromise care.
Today, MPs called for the number of nurses on duty in every English hospital ward should be collected daily and published to help prevent a repeat of the Stafford hospital scandal.
Hospitals themselves must decide how many and which staff they employ. But we have been absolutely clear that these decisions must be based on providing the best patient care and hospitals should publish details and evidence to show that staffing numbers are right for the care needs of the patients that they look after.
The new chief inspector of hospitals will be able to take action if hospitals are found to be compromising patient care by not having the right number of staff on wards.
– Department of Health spokeswoman
We are also working with the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, the Care Quality Commission and NHS England to develop better tools to help hospitals decide their staffing numbers.
Cutting nursing posts to save money is a false economy, leading to poor care and creating more strain on the system, the general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing said today, after a report found that nurses were having to "ration care" due to time pressures.
Dr Peter Carter said:
These are depressing findings and unfortunately not surprising.
When nurses are overloaded with tasks, and have extremely limited time to complete them, something has to give. Without enough staff on the ground it's vital care such as having the time to talk with, and reassure, patients that suffers.
We need to prevent poor care by making sure wards are well staffed, not just use poor care as an early warning sign. We urge all employers to make use of this research.
A new report suggesting that nurses are having to "ration care" towards their patients due to time pressures has been welcomed by the head of nursing at the union Unison.
Gail Adams said: "This report adds to the growing evidence that there is safety in numbers when it comes to caring for patients.
"Earlier this year Unison's own survey of nurses and healthcare assistants found that nearly 60% did not have enough time to deliver safe, dignified and compassionate patient care.
"The introduction of minimum staff to patient ratios would be a life-saving initiative - one that would dramatically change life on the wards for patients and staff, providing a safer, more caring environment for all."
There is a strong relationship between registered nurses staffing levels and the prevalence of care being left undone, authors from the Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery and the University of Southampton said today after a new report suggested nurses wee having to "ration care".
The authors added:
Most nurses working on general medical and surgical wards in this representative sample reported that some care was left undone on their last shift.
Registered nurses (RNs) working in English NHS hospitals report that care is needed but is often not done because of insufficient time. [The] better the practice environment the smaller the volume of care that is left undone.
Our findings raise difficult questions for hospitals in a climate where many are looking to reduce - not increase - their expenditure on nurse staffing.
More than 80% of nurses are being forced to "ration care" because they don't have enough time to properly look after patients, a new study suggests.
The authors from the Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery and the University of Southampton, found:
- 86% of nurses were unable to perform at least one of 13 care elements because they were too busy
- 66% of nurses unable to comfort or talk to patients
- Just over half of nurses saying they were forced to skip "educating patients"
- 47% said they didn't have time to develop or update nursing care plans
- The average nurse cared for 7.8 patients on a day shift
- The average nurse cared for 10.9 patients on a night shift
- Nurses looking after 11 or more patients were twice as likely to say they rationed patient monitoring as those looking after six or fewer patients
- 78% of nurses in the best staffed environments reported some care was missed on their last shift, compared with 90% of those with lower staffing levels
Hospital nurses are being forced to "ration care" because they don't have enough time to properly look after patients, a new study suggests.
Fundamental aspects of care are "frequently being left undone", researchers found.
Almost nine in ten nurses questioned said they were so busy on their last shift that they were unable to perform at least one "care activity" such as proper patient surveillance, administering medication properly, comforting patients or changing a patients' position in bed - to prevent bed sores.
The study, published in the online journal BMJ Quality & Safety, examined data from almost 3,000 nurses who work in 46 English hospitals.
Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham has said 10% of hospitals are understaffed and the NHS was engulfed in chaos. He said:
Ministers must intervene to stop the job losses and urgently bring forward a plan to ensure that all hospitals in England have enough staff to provide safe care.
A new chief inspector of hospitals would be empowered to take action if hospitals are found to be compromising patient care with insufficient staffing, the Government has said.
Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter said hospitals were responsible for their own levels of staff numbers.
– Dr Dan Poulter
It is for hospitals themselves to decide how many nurses they employ, and they are best placed to do this.
Nursing leaders have been clear that hospitals should publish staffing details and the evidence to show that staff numbers are right for the care needs of the patients that they look after.
Overall, the number of clinical staff in the NHS has risen and the number of admin staff has fallen by 18,000.
The survey by Nursing Standard and the Sunday Mirror also found that almost half of nurses had seen patients suffer as a result of services being cut.
– Safe and Sound, the Safe Staffing Alliance statement
For the sake of clarity, more than eight patients per registered nurse is the level considered to be unsafe and putting patients at risk. It is not a recommended minimum.
For nurses to provide compassionate care which treats patients with dignity and respect, higher levels will be needed and these should be determined by every health care provider.
But 57.5% of nurses said they were still proud to work for the NHS.