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Scotland’s nursing staff welcome ground-breaking safe staffing law

2 May 2019

RCN members' collective voice heard as final Health and Care (Staffing) (Scotland) Bill includes majority of what RCN wanted to see in it.

Staffing for safe and effective care in Scotland’s NHS and care homes has been enshrined in law following a final debate in the Scottish Parliament this afternoon (Thursday 2 May).

It is the first legislation of this kind in the UK to apply to both health and social care services.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon made the commitment to put safe staffing on a statutory footing from the stage of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Congress in 2016. Since then RCN members have been working to influence and shape this legislation.

Over 5,000 people signed up to support RCN’s #askformore campaign which highlighted the changes that needed to be made in order for the Bill to make a real difference. 

The RCN called for the legislation to do more than put the existing workload and workforce planning tools on a statutory footing. These calls have been answered with the majority of RCN members’ asks included at this final stage. 

The RCN has championed the role of the Senior Charge Nurse and their equivalent in the community in co-ordinating safe care and developing nursing teams to ensure they have the skills and experience they need. The RCN will be pushing to have this unique role, and the need for SCNs not to carry a direct patient caseload, to be recognised in guidance.

RCN Scotland Director, Theresa Fyffe, said: “Throughout the campaign our members consistently asked for more from the legislation. It’s clear that their personal stories have had an impact and that they have been listened to.

“With this legislation the Scottish Government has set expectations on standards of care and who is accountable for maintaining safe staffing. Over the coming months we will continue our work, supporting the development of guidance and the plan for implementation.

“However, we’ve been clear from the outset that legislation alone will not solve the nursing staff challenges that face Scotland’s NHS and care home sector.  What’s needed is a change in our wider safety culture and a fully funded, long-term workforce planning process that ensures Scotland has the right number of nursing staff to meet future needs.” 

RCN members were in the debating chamber to hear the final debate and support the opposition MSPs who have helped ensure this legislation will deliver.


The Health and Care (Staffing) (Scotland) Bill aims to ensure staffing levels that provide safe, high quality health and care services for the people of Scotland. 

The law passed today focuses on delivering positive outcomes for patients, residents and for staff. It: recognises the need to listen to nurse leaders, letting these highly skilled clinical professionals exercise their professional judgement; sets out the processes to ensure decisions on staffing are made on the grounds of safety and that there is the flex in the system to adapt to real time changes in dependency and acuity; and recognises that live data will be used to plan effectively for the future.

The RCN was clear that this new law needs to be clear on who is accountable for providing the right number of nursing staff with the right skills and that the reporting processes need to be in place to ensure that decisions on staffing can be scrutinised.

Page last updated - 07/07/2021