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Wales leads the way in safe staffing bill implementation, conference told

Wales is making good progress towards fully implementing safe staffing legislation, a conference heard.

Wales is making good progress towards fully implementing safe staffing legislation, a conference heard.


Susan Osborne. Picture: John Houlihan

The Nurse Staffing Levels (Wales) Act makes Wales the first country in Europe to make it a legal requirement to have sufficient nurses on duty on every single shift.

It is to be introduced in adult acute medical and surgical wards by 6 April this year, and will eventually spread to health visiting, district nursing and care homes.

Positive update

All Wales Nurse Staffing Programme manager Joanna Doyle provided a positive update on final preparations to nurses attending the Safe Staffing Summit in London on 9 March.

From next month, three sections will be added to the act governing all aspects of the NHS in Wales (the National Health Service (Wales) Act 2006), which was introduced under the country’s devolved powers. These cover:

  • Placing a duty on local health boards and NHS trusts to calculate and take steps to maintain nurse staffing levels in specified settings – currently these cover adult acute medical and surgical inpatient wards.
  • The recommended methods for calculating these staffing levels.
  • Placing a duty on the boards and trusts to report nurse staffing levels to Welsh ministers; and for those ministers to place the reports before the Welsh Assembly.

Ms Doyle told the summit that Wales employs 36,000 people in the nursing workforce – 21,000 are registered nurses and midwives – working at ten boards and trusts on 22,000 shifts per day.

She said: ‘The data we are using to drive this act is becoming more reliable and more robust.

‘The staff have confidence in that data to provide an accurate picture of the ward where they work.’

Despite the advances in data gathering, Ms Doyle stressed professional judgment would continue to be a factor in calculating staffing levels.

She added: ‘We know as nurses when a situation is safe and when it is not, and we know when we have enough staff and when we don’t.’

Follow by example

Safe Staffing Alliance chair Susan Osborne chaired the summit and gave her backing to seeing the other UK countries follow Wales example.

She said: ‘All nurses need to come together and tell their governments "we have had enough".'

The safe staffing act was first introduced in 2014, as a private members bill by then Welsh liberal democrat leader Kirsty Williams.

It was discussed and adapted by politicians for two years before finally receiving royal approval on 21 March 2016.

Statutory guidance advising boards and trusts how to prepare for the final three sections becoming law was issued in November 2017.

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