Scotland passes safe staffing law

Scotland now has first legislation of its kind in the UK to apply to all clinical groups, in both health and social care services

A landmark law designed to ensure safe staffing in Scotland’s NHS and social care services has been passed by the Scottish parliament.

The Health and Care (Staffing) (Scotland) bill is the first legislation of its kind in the UK to apply to all clinical groups, in both health and social care services.

It was passed following a cross-party debate on Thursday.

Speaking after the vote, Scottish health secretary Jeane Freeman said: ‘Being open about decisions on staffing allows health boards to allocate staff efficiently and effectively.

‘I want staff to feel engaged and informed about decisions relating to staffing requirements and feel safe to raise any concerns about staffing levels.’

RCN Scotland campaign

Scotland has become the second UK country to enshrine safe staffing in law, after Wales introduced a nurse safe staffing law for adult acute medical and surgical inpatient wards in April 2018.

RCN Scotland’s Theresa Fyffe

First minister Nicola Sturgeon made a commitment to safe staffing during a speech at RCN congress in 2016.

Last year, RCN Scotland launched a campaign called Ask for More to raise public awareness and seek input on the bill.

The college has championed the role of the senior charge nurse and its equivalent in the community in co-ordinating safe care and developing nursing teams to ensure they have the skills and experience they need.

The RCN will be pushing to have this unique role, and the need for senior charge nurses not to carry a direct patient caseload, recognised in guidance.

‘Legislation alone won’t solve challenges’

RCN Scotland Director Theresa Fyffe said: ‘With this legislation the Scottish Government has set expectations on standards of care and who is accountable for maintaining safe staffing.

‘Over the coming months we will continue our work, supporting the development of guidance and the plan for implementation.

‘However, we’ve been clear from the outset that legislation alone will not solve the nursing staff challenges that face Scotland’s NHS and care home sector. What’s needed is a change in our wider safety culture and a fully funded, long-term workforce planning process that ensures Scotland has the right number of nursing staff to meet future needs.’

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