Only Enough is Enough – It’s Time for Safe Staffing

Only Enough is Enough - It's time for safe staffing

NHS staff are tired of working with unsafe staffing levels. So staff are taking action – with a new pilot campaign that aims to change that.

Every report, review and inquiry says the same:  we don’t have enough staff, with enough time to provide our patients with the care they need. Politicians make promises but nothing seems to change; you’re left taking up the slack whilst no-one holds your organisation to account.

That’s why we in UNISON are saying Only Enough is Enough. We’ve all had enough, and only enough staff with enough time will do.

Our new, grassroots branch-led campaign will see the UNISON nursing family working together to hold NHS employers to account, to tackle unsafe staffing levels.

This October, UNISON branches across the UK will be organising in hospitals, running local shift surveys to record real staffing levels, collecting data that can’t be ignored. Branches will share this information with their NHS colleagues and take up public campaigns to force action on safe staffing.

Are you interested in running the ‘Only Enough is Enough’ campaign in your workplace? Register your details here.

Registered nurse or midwife? Find out what the campaign means for you

Unsafe staffing means key clinical tasks aren’t done and causes harm to our patients. It contributes to burnout and affects the morale of everyone on our teams.

Healthcare providers are accountable through law, policy and regulation for providing safe care. But too often they’re able to turn a blind eye to the challenges you face providing care every day.

By completing the UNISON survey at the end of each shift you will provide data on staffing that those responsible can’t ignore.

This information explains some of the key issues around safe staffing for registered nurses and midwives. If you want to achieve safe staffing, join the campaign to say ‘Only Enough is Enough’. Read below to find out more.

What are your professional responsibilities around safe staffing?

As a nurse or midwife you are professionally accountable and responsible for those in your care. Working with unsafe staffing levels can put you in a difficult position professionally. Some key points you should consider are:

Reporting and raising concerns

  • The NMC are clear that as a registrant you have a responsibility to act if you consider that the people you are caring for are at risk. The NMC ‘Raising Concerns’ guidance states that “Doing nothing and failing to report concerns is unacceptable.”
  • Your organisation must legally provide mechanisms for you to escalate staffing concerns. You should familiarise yourself with this policy. If you feel any concerns you raise are not being addressed you should consider alternative means of reporting them. The UNISON ‘Be Safe Guidance’ provides advice on how to do this.
  • Our campaign aims to demonstrate the extent of unsafe staffing levels in your organisation and to demand better. The shift survey does not ask for any confidential information, either about you or your patients, and there is no reason why, as a registered nurse or midwife, you cannot respond.
  • If you believe there is an immediate risk of harm to your patients, however, completing our survey is not enough. You must report your concerns through your organisation’s policies. A UNISON branch representative can support you if you do not understand how to do this.

Redeployment and competency in different clinical areas

  • At times you may be asked to redeploy to another area to address unsafe staffing levels. In most employment contracts in the NHS, it is understood you can reasonably be expected to move to support another area where needed.
  • However, you must receive a local induction and the necessary support to ensure you are safe and can practice well in the area you are redeployed to.
  • If you are concerned about your competency to practice in another area, you should inform the necessary line manager of your concerns. As a professional, you must raise these concerns if you believe your patients might be at risk. If your concerns are not adequately addressed, you should consider escalating this further or involving a UNISON rep.
  • Refusing to be redeployed could place you a difficult situation professionally. The NMC expects you to work collaboratively within teams to reduce the risk of harm to patients. Refusing a reasonable request to redeploy could potentially be seen as negligent.
  • You may feel that redeployment requests are unreasonable or that you are being targeted for redeployment unfairly. You may be able to raise a grievance or a complaint if this is a form of bullying or discrimination. You should discuss this with a UNISON rep.

Organisational responsibility

  • Your employer has the ultimate responsibility for ensuring the safety of your services and your workplaces. They should be working together with you to maintain safety at all times.
  • Your employer should be welcoming of feedback and staff who raise concerns and your UNISON branch will aim to work with them to improve staffing levels. You should not feel prevented from responding to our shift survey. If you are prevented from raising concerns you should raise this with a UNISON rep at the earlier opportunity.

Speaking to a UNISON representative

  • Get in touch with your UNISON branch or a rep to find out more about the campaign. See our FAQs for more info.
  • UNISON representatives can support you if you are concerned about staffing levels; get in touch as soon as possible.

More about the campaign

If you’re in one of the following branches – get in touch with your branch to get involved. The participating branches this year are:

  • Cambridge University Hospitals Branch
  • University Hospitals Birmingham
  • Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital
  • Cornwall Acute Branch
  • Aneurin Bevan Branch
  • Cardiff & Vale Health Branch

You can support the campaign by:

  1. Joining UNISON as a member today –
  2. Completing our ‘Only Enough is Enough’ survey after every shift whilst the survey is open.
    Share some materials in your workplace and encourage your colleagues to complete the survey at the end of every shift.
  3. Get involved as a leader in the campaign – Contact your local branch now.

You can take part in the surveys even if you’re not a UNISON member. But only UNISON members will be a part of making campaign decisions, and any action that is taken as a result.

The campaign focuses on nursing and midwifery staff, but all NHS staff in the pilot branches are welcome to share their experiences of safe staffing in the survey.