by | Aug 27, 2020

Royal College of Nursing (RCN)

Consultancy case study on SMK’s support for the Royal College of Nursing and their Safe Staffing campaign.

What does your organisation/campaign do? What are your purpose and aims?
As the world’s largest nursing trade union and professional body, we represent a community of 450,000 nurses, midwives, student nurses, health care assistants, assistant practitioners, nursing degree apprentices and trainee nursing associates across the UK.

Our wide range of services help of members both professionally and personally, so that they can focus on what is most important – helping patients. Our campaigning work has resulted in real change to the lives of nursing staff across the UK and their patients. We couldn’t do it all without the thousands of members who’ve added their voice. Together, we make change happen.

Information on your campaign/issue. What was the problem you faced to begin with?
We’re calling for staffing for safe and effective care to be enshrined in law in each UK country.

Safe staffing means having enough nursing staff with the right skills and knowledge, in the right place, at the right time. Without safe staffing levels in place, nursing staff are struggling to provide patients with the safe and effective care they would like to, and which patients deserve.

In the England safe staffing campaign we have identified three key areas that need to addressed now as part of our call for immediate action on the nursing workforce shortage:
1. Recruit – cancel the debt for student nurses who enrolled after tuition fee bursaries were scrapped and fund tuition fee and maintenance grant bursaries for new students
2. Return and retain – agree an early and meaningful pay increase and overtime payments that encourage nurses to return to or stay in the profession and
3. Attract – remove barriers to entry for overseas nurses and nursing students by scrapping the immigration surcharge and salary cap

Why did you decide to get support? What was the reason you sought consultancy from SMK?
We were very keen to engage our members more fully in co-producing our campaign in England, drawing on their experience and expertise to design and deliver our campaign messages. We were also aware that the issue of safe and effective care is one that involves social change around the values placed on nursing roles and the needs of different patient/client communities.

Traditionally, our campaigning activity has focussed on political influencing and lobbying of UK governments and we were keen to explore the potential for bringing our campaigning activity into workplaces, communities and the public sphere.

We sought the support of SMK following the publication of the social change grid, which we recognised had the potential to provide a framework for our campaign planning and activity.

SMK supported us in our campaign planning and in upskilling our members and staff who were leading campaign activity across our nine England regions.

What was the impact of the consultancy? Have you done anything differently since? Have you achieved any wins/changes?
Support from SMK has widened our perspectives on campaigning activity and helped us to think about the change we want to see and how we might go about achieving it.

Our campaign launch in England in Sept 2019 achieved huge public attention and resulted in our campaign asks being featured in party manifestos in the subsequent general election. The incoming Conservative government included a commitment to address the 40,000 nursing workforce shortage in the NHS in England as part of the Prime Minister’s victory speech.


”Support from SMK has widened our perspectives on campaigning activity and helped us to think about the change we want to see and how we might go about achieving it.”

Mairéad O’Siochrú
Learning & Development Quality Assurance and Improvement Lead
Royal College of Nursing

Megan Poyiadzis

Events and Programmes Manager at SMK.



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