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Staffing for safe and effective care – the next steps

 Eileen McKenna 17 Sep 2019

“The passing of the Act is only the first step in ensuring staffing for safe and effective care”

Today, on the first World Patient Safety Day, Eileen McKenna, RCN Scotland Associate Director for Professional Practice looks at the work still to be done to ensure the Health and Care (Staffing) (Scotland) Act can make a difference.

In May this year we celebrated the Health and Care (Staffing) (Scotland) Act being passed by the Scottish Parliament. And we were right to mark this occasion. The changes made to the Act as a direct result of our collective campaigning where significant. Members and staff recognised that the initial proposals were not good enough. Through hard work and determination, the final Act now meets over 85% of the RCN’s asks.

But, the passing of the Act is only the first step in ensuring staffing for safe and effective care. More nursing posts are vacant than ever before and the Scottish Government must take action now to address nursing workforce shortages and ensure that health and care services are properly funded and staffed to allow providers to meet their duties under the Act.

The Cabinet Secretary committed to drafting the guidance that supports implementation in collaboration with stakeholders. We are now looking at what we need to do to work with Scottish Government to ensure the guidance and any secondary legislation that is developed will support implementation.

We recognise the benefits of multidisciplinary team working and the multidisciplinary approach to the legislation but are clear that, when implementing the Act, organisations must be careful not to lose sight of the unique contribution that each profession brings to the delivery of high quality person centred care.

We want to make sure that the common staffing method, used to set the nursing workforce establishment, takes account of all the factors that impact on staffing for safe and effective care. And the processes for assessing and escalating real time risk must function in a way that gives nursing staff the confidence to report concerns about staffing and have those concerns acted upon.

The Senior Charge Nurse role will be pivotal to the effective implementation of the processes set out in the legislation and we want to make sure that the Scottish Government delivers on its commitment to give lead clinical professionals e.g. Senior Charge Nurses, the time and resources to carry out their crucial clinical leadership and co-ordinating function. Likewise for the commitment that there will be sufficient time and resources for continuous personal development and training for the wider nursing workforce.

We fought hard to ensure the legislation applies to both the NHS and care homes where nursing care is provided and will be pushing Scottish Government to move quickly on the development of staffing methodology for care homes.

Sharing a platform with colleagues from Government at a recent conference and talking though the next steps on implementation, it was clear that there are still more challenges ahead. We will work with our partners and stakeholders to meet these challenges, and harnessing the voice of our members will be key.

Find out more about World Patient Safety Day on the World Health Organisation website.


Eileen McKenna

Associate Director, RCN Scotland

Eileen McKenna is Associate Director (Professional Practice), RCN Scotland.

Page last updated - 17/09/2019