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Staffing guidance aims to help nurse directors comply with law in Wales

Nurse staffing law is being introduced gradually.

Nurse staffing law is being introduced gradually.


Care quality and patient acuity will inform staffing judgements. Picture: Charles Milligan

The Welsh government has published statutory guidance on the new nurse staffing law.

The Nurse Staffing Levels (Wales) Act 2016 became law in March 2016 and has applied to acute medical and surgical wards since April 2017. Its phased introduction will be complete by April 2018. In time, it will also be extended to areas including mental health inpatient, health visiting, district nursing and care homes.

Legal requirement

Providers will be required to maintain a sufficient level of nurses, as calculated against criteria of patient acuity, quality indicators and professional judgement. They must report to the government every three years on their performance. 

The guidance states a senior nurse, such as an executive director of nursing, should assume overall responsibility for calculating the number of nurses required to provide patient-centred care at all times. There is a tool to help them work out the numbers.

Sensitive to need

Chief nursing officer for Wales Jean White, who attended the launch of the guidance at Prince Philip Hospital in Llanelli on 2 November, said: ‘The act requires the NHS to ensure there are enough nurses to care sensitively for patients and we’re working hard to help get those numbers right.

‘It is essential we have a nursing workforce that has the right skill set, in the right numbers with an appropriate skill mix, deployed at the right time to meet patients’ needs.’

RCN Wales director Tina Donnelly said: ‘The guidance will be essential to the implementation of the legislation.

‘While we would have liked it to go further in some areas, we are satisfied that, if implemented correctly, the guidance will help ensure the aim of the act will be achieved.'

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