Sturgeon to promise mandatory nurse staffing levels in Scotland

Scotland's first minister Nicola Sturgeon will tell RCN congress that workforce planning tools for nursing and midwifery staff will be put on a statutory footing

Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon has pledged to make workforce planning for nursing and midwifery staff in the NHS legally binding.

Ms Sturgeon is expected to tell the RCN congress in Glasgow on Monday that legislation will reinforce NHS Scotland’s commitment to safe staffing levels.

She was due to tell delegates that Scotland has led the UK in developing mandatory nursing and midwifery workforce planning tools to help health boards plan for the right numbers.

Patient safety

‘To build on our record, we will enshrine these planning tools in law and examine what other areas of the workforce would benefit from having similar tools developed, which will further strengthen our commitment to patient safety in our wards,’ the first minister was expected to say.

RCN Scotland director Theresa Fyffe gave a cautious welcome to the pledge, but wanted to see more detail. ‘The RCN has been closely involved with the development of the staffing tools all along and strongly supports their use,’ she said. ‘The first minister’s commitment to putting the tools on a statutory footing should help to ensure that there are the right number of healthcare professionals with the right skills working in Scotland’s NHS.’


Ms Fyffe called for reassurance that the funding will be there to implement the pledge. ‘As ever the detail of the proposed legislation will be important. As a part of that the RCN would want to see senior charge nurses given the time to lead their teams by making their positions supernumerary. It should also extend to all clinical areas for which tools have been developed to ensure each area is treated equally and appropriately.’

Scotland’s Chief Nursing Officer Fiona McQueen said the link between safe and sustainable staffing levels – including qualified nurse numbers – and high quality care was well established.

Ms Sturgeon said work would begin this summer to put health staffing on a statutory basis, and that the Scottish Government would also examine whether other areas of the workforce could benefit from such tools.

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