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Safe staffing in Welsh hospitals needs more than an acuity tool, says Lib Dem leader

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams gives evidence to health committee on Safe Nurse Staffing Levels (Wales) Bill

Ensuring safe nurse staffing in Welsh hospitals requires more than health boards being directed to use an acuity tool, Welsh ministers have been told.

The health and social care committee of the Welsh assembly heard evidence from Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams this morning about her Safe Nurse Staffing Levels (Wales) Bill.

If the bill becomes law, it would require the country’s health boards to ensure they satisfy minimum nurse to patient ratios in adult inpatient wards in acute hospitals.

In correspondence to the committee, Welsh health minister Mark Drakeford said he could mandate the use of an acuity tool, developed by the Welsh Government and the country's health service, to achieve the same safe staffing aims as the bill.

The acuity tool, which is still under development, can be used by health boards to determine staffing numbers required to meet patient needs and Mr Drakeford said he could direct the health boards in writing to use it. 

Plaid Cymru's Elin Jones asked if Ms Williams would be willing to accept a mandated acuity tool rather than mandating minimum ratios as the bill requires.

Ms Williams said: ‘If we are completely reliant on it, it is a step forward from where we are now, but it does not create a statutory obligation. 

‘It is only used on a ward by ward basis. It is not an overarching strategy aim. Acuity is just one element in delivering safe staffing.’

The committee is due to hear further evidence on the bill later today.

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