Overworked health workers warned on Tuesday that severe cost-cutting within the NHS has left them with a decimated workforce unable to deal with increasing numbers of patients.
Health workers including nurses, assistants, visitors and midwives have warned that cutbacks are making the service they provide unsafe and standards of care were suffering.
The issue was high on the agenda at Unison's health conference in Brighton this week following a survey of 2,000 staff that found three-quarters reported an increase in the number of patients they have treated.
One respondent said that "crisis has become the norm."
The majority of those surveyed also admitted a drop in staff numbers and cutbacks having an adverse effect on patient care and safety at work.
Conference called on the Health Service Group executive to develop a campaign to introduce safe nurse-patient ratios with minimum staffing levels.
Unison head of health Christina McAnea said: "While there is no one size fits all solution to setting safe staffing levels, it is clear that without them patient care is being compromised and patients lives are at risk.
"Self-policing is just not working especially in this climate of budget cuts. There were numerous reports that staff numbers were changed to fit budgets or where students were counted as staff.
"It is time to confront the evidence which clearly demonstrates that mandatory staffing levels are directly associated with a reduction in patient deaths.
"Unison is committed to quality patient care and we will be working hard to get the government to listen and act on evidence that shows time and again the benefits of legally set staffing ratios."
Ms McAnea warned that cuts to staffing levels and the wrong mix of skills on wards led to the failings at Mid Staffordshire hospital.
"We owe it to those patients who suffered and to their relatives to learn the lessons and make the long-standing changes to protect patients in future," she said.
"Introducing legislation to ensure minimum patient staff ratios would be a major step in the right direction."
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