A NORTH-EAST MP has warned nursing shortages are "undermining patient safety" in hospitals across the region.

Sedgefield MP Phil Wilson has sent a letter to Health Secretary Matt Hancock urging him to change legislation "immediately" and make safe staffing levels in the health care system a priority.

Mr Wilson has raised the concerns having recently met with a trainee nurse and a constituent who raised concerns about the stress many of the medical staff find themselves under

He wants to see legislation to ensure accountability for safe nurse staffing at all levels of health and care services, after an equivalent law was introduced in Scotland and Wales.

Wales became the first country in Europe to introduce a safe staffing law for nursing in 2016, however the bill in Scotland went further as it applies to all clinical staff groups and also includes social care

Mr Wilson also wants to ensure that a statutory body has responsibility for future nurse force planning, and is calling for an investment of at least £1bn in nurse higher education in order to reverse the reduction in the number of students both applying to and taking up places in nursing degree courses.

In the letter to Mr Hancock, Mr Wilson said: "I have recently met with a trainee nurse and a constituent of mine who raised concerns about the stress many of the medical staff find themselves under. Although they do a brilliant job under difficult circumstances my constituent believes that hospitals should be staffed to safe level and this should be enshrined in legislation.

"As you know this is an issue that is also being promotes by the Royal College of Nursing. There are almost 40,000 nurse posts vacant in the NHS in England.

"Nursing shortages undermines patient safety and needs to be addressed immediately. Our NHS staff do a brilliant job in difficult circumstances and I do not want to see their work and their ability to maintain patient safety be undermined."

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) is also campaigning for safe staffing legislation in England and Northern Ireland.

A spokesperson said: "Nurses are the beating heart of our health services. They care for us in hospital, at our local GP surgery and even in our own homes. But shortages in England have reached alarming levels.

"This means that essential care can be left undone - patients waiting in corridors and vital treatments delayed. When a service is short of staff, nurses have no option but to carry on. They do their best every day, working above and beyond, but even in a profession they love, this pressure is unsustainable.

"We need investment now and a change in law to protect nurses and patient care in the future."