Cardiff buildings lit up as demands made for more nurses in Wales

Wales was the first UK nation to enshrine safe nursing levels into law, but now the RCN wants that to go further

A new campaign by the Royal College of Nursing Wales (RCN) has projected a direct message to the Welsh Government on iconic buildings across Cardiff.  

RCN Wales illuminated the Senedd, Pierhead building and Principality Stadium in a bid to illustrate the pressures nurses in Wales are currently under.

The college said its message sought to “expose the harsh reality nurses face every day due to staff shortages”.

It read: “Nursing staff in Wales are short of 1,719 team members. It’s time to give Wales the full team of nurses we desperately need.”

Staff shortages due to Covid and illness have places nursing teams under pressure

According to statistics from the college, staff shortages in Wales mean that nurses need to work 34,284 hours of overtime every week to care for patients.

RCN Wales is already threatening strike action over a decision by the Welsh Government to award nurses a 3% pay increase in July.

Now, a petition has been launched demanding that nurse staffing legislation be extended.

Wales was the first country in the UK to enshrine into law the duty of the NHS to provide safe and effective nursing care, also calculating the appropriate nursing levels required on medical and surgical inpatient wards in hospitals.

The #ForTheFullTeam campaign is calling on the Welsh Government to extend Section 25B to cover nursing in mental health inpatient wards and community nursing.

Richard Jones, chair of the RCN Wales Board, said: “Every day, nurses work tirelessly to take care of people, but we need to start taking better care of them. 

“Research has shown that poor nurse staffing levels can increase mortality by up to 26% – and there are 1,719 nursing staff vacancies in Wales. 

“This means there aren’t enough nurses to provide the most safe and effective care for patients.

"Without a full team, lives may be put at risk.”

Nurses in Wales are already threatening strike action over pay

In response to the campaign, a Welsh Government spokesperson said: “We introduced the Nurse Staffing Levels (Wales) Act to ensure people in Wales have access to safe, high-quality standards of care. 

“Wales was the first country to introduce nurse staffing legislation in Europe and we have extended the act to include paediatric inpatient wards.

“The number of registered nurses in Wales continues to increase and training places have risen by 68% over the last five years. 

“We have also retained the NHS bursary for student nurses and are recruiting additional nurses, supported by our Train Work Live campaign.

“The All Wales Nurse Staffing Programme, which includes representatives from across NHS Wales, is leading the complex work to explore the further potential extension of the scope and principle of the 2016 Act. 

“This work is largely focused on adult mental health inpatient wards; health visiting services and district nursing services.” 

Damaged morale

In support of the campaign, intensive care nurse George, who does not wish to share his full name, said: “I started working on intensive care in November 2020 during the second wave of the pandemic. We were short-staffed then but got through it together. 

“Going through the trauma of losing so many patients and working so hard brought us close together and I made close friends with a lot of the team.“But this year almost all of those colleagues have left due to the stress of staffing levels. I work with agency staff and new starters that I don’t know. It is damaging for morale not to have a support network at work.”

“I am supporting this campaign because I want the government to hear first-hand from staff on the front line what is really happening.”

As with all Senedd petitions, it will require 10,000 signatures before it will be considered for a debate in the Senedd.

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