Scottish government publishes safe staffing bill

No minimum staffing ratio, but care providers must use workload and workforce planning tools

Scotland’s health boards and care providers will be required to ensure their staffing enables safe, high-quality care for all patients, under legislation introduced today.

The legislation will require care providers to report on staffing decisions. Picture: iStock

While the bill does not mandate minimum staff-to-patient ratios, it does require NHS boards and care services to use nationally agreed nursing and midwifery workload and workforce planning tools.

'Suitably trained staff'

The Health and Care (Staffing) (Scotland) Bill means service providers have a duty to ensure appropriate numbers of suitably trained staff are in place, irrespective of where care is received.

Scotland's health secretary Shona Robison said: 'This legislation will work in practice by ensuring staffing decisions take account of the needs of service users and staff, and are supported by available evidence. It will also promote transparency about the basis of staffing decisions.'

‘Our members have told us time and again that staff shortages and increasing demands on services mean staff are not able to meet patients’ needs’

Theresa Fyffe, RCN Scotland

In April, Wales became the first country in Europe to bring in a nurse safe staffing law. It requires that health boards calculate and provide sufficient numbers of nurses to care ‘sensitively’ for patients in adult acute medical and surgical inpatient wards.

Call for laws across UK

RCN members at its congress this month called for nurse safe staffing legislation to be enacted across the UK, with England and Northern Ireland yet to introduce measures. 

RCN Scotland director Theresa Fyffe said: 'Our members have told us time and again that, because of staff shortages and increasing demands on services, there are times when the staff working are not able to meet the needs of their patients.'

However, she said that delivering safe and effective care is about 'more than putting workload and workforce planning tools on a statutory footing', and means listening to highly skilled professionals and letting them exercise professional judgement.

Ms Fyffe added: 'If Scotland is to seize the opportunity that legislation affords then there is still work to be done. But in introducing this bill the Scottish government has demonstrated an ambition to get staffing for health and care right.'

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