Speaking at RCN Congress 2022, the Cabinet Secretary took questions from RCN Scotland members on a wide range of issues, including pay, recruitment and retention before making the announcement.
The commitment for a timetable comes six years after the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon MSP attended RCN Congress in Glasgow to announce plans for legally binding safe staffing levels in Scotland.
Work on implementing the Health and Care (Staffing) (Scotland) Act 2019 had been put on pause during the pandemic.
However, in the run up to Congress and the three year anniversary of the Act receiving Royal Assent, RCN Scotland has been calling for implementation of the legislation, including in the recently published Nursing Workforce in Scotland report.
The legislation will place a statutory duty on health and social care providers to ensure sufficient staffing levels for patient care, will require the Scottish government to annually report on what they are doing to ensure sufficient staffing levels and would strengthen the rights of staff who have concerns around staffing.
At the event, RCN Scotland members also pressed the Cabinet Secretary on fair pay for nursing staff in health and social care in a robust discussion. The Cabinet Secretary was repeatedly told about the disappointment with the delay over the 2022¬-23 pay negotiations as well as the failure for pay to keep up with inflation.
Those attending the event also had the opportunity to question the Cabinet Secretary on retention of experienced staff, mental health services and international recruitment.
Commenting afterwards, Julie Lamberth RCN Board Chair said: “RCN members appreciated the opportunity to question the Cabinet Secretary at Congress.
“The commitment for a timetable for implementation of the safe staffing legislation is welcome, but long overdue. RCN Scotland will be holding the Cabinet Secretary to his promised deadline and we expect the timetable to be detailed, to set out key milestones and to ensure we have the legislation in force as soon as possible.
“This week we have seen the reality of staffing levels across health and social care in Scotland, with the publication of the report from our Last Shift Survey and worrying NHS workforce statistics. Staff need to know that things are going to improve and they need this legislation implemented as soon as possible.
“The Cabinet Secretary was left in no doubt about the strength of feeling from RCN members on pay and the need to ensure that a fair pay settlement is reached as soon as possible.”