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Nurse Staffing Levels (Wales) Act 2016

Find out more about this groundbreaking piece of legislation

Nurses told us that having enough time to care was their number one priority. Working together, nurses and Assembly Members made a law to ensure acute hospital wards always have a safe number of nursing staff.

Why we needed a law

A priority for nurses and patients

In 2015 the Royal College of Nursing in Wales surveyed 1186 members across nursing sectors in all parts of Wales.

Nurses across Wales agreed that the most important change we could bring about was to ensure that there were safe levels of nurse staffing in hospitals in Wales.

Too few nurses mean increased mortality, increased infection rates, more patient falls, more pressure sores, poor nourishment and hydration and mistakes administering medication.

It's vital for patient safety and well-being that there are enough nurses with time to care. 

We know that laws change the behaviour of big organisations such as health boards by creating new standards of what is acceptable, so we decided to take action.

How we got started

Kirsty Williams CBE AM FRCN, won a ballot in 2014 which gave her the right to introduce a Member Proposed Bill.

Working with the RCN, Kirsty wrote a draft law, called a Bill.

The purpose of the Bill was to ensure that nurses are always deployed in sufficient numbers to:

  • Enable the provision of safe care at all times
  • Improve working conditions for nursing and other staff
  • Strengthen accountability for the safety, quality and efficacy of workforce planning and management.

In short, give nurses the time to care.

What we argued

The road was never smooth!

There was lots of support for our idea. Many nurses came to the Welsh Assembly and hundreds more spoke to their AMs, telling them why the Bill was so important.

We told politicians that the current system of ensuring nurse staffing levels wasn't good enough and that a law was needed to make health boards act.

Professor Mark Drakeford, then Minister for Health and Social Services, agreed and after extensive discussion and some changes, the Bill was passed by Assembly Members on 10th February 2016.

How we won...

On Monday 21st March 2016, the Bill was approved by the Queen and it became a law.

But it doesn't end there. We will now hold politicians to their word and make sure that the law is enforced.

RCN Wales Policy office