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Staffing for Safe and Effective Care

in Scotland

Safe staffing legislation in Scotland

The Health and Care (Staffing) (Scotland) Act 2019 (‘the Act’) will come into force from 1 April 2024. This ground-breaking legislation sets out requirements for safe staffing across all health and care services in Scotland.

The Act was passed in the summer of 2019. In June 2022, following sustained pressure from RCN Scotland and its members, the Scottish Government published a timetable for implementation of the Act.

From the outset, RCN Scotland has strived to positively influence the development and implementation of the Act for the benefit of our members and for everyone in Scotland who relies on the safe provision of high-quality health and care services.

Implementation has included a ‘test and learn’ phase that began in the spring of 2023 and will conclude in early 2024. In the words of Scottish Government, the purpose of this phase was to “allow us to refine both the guidance and reporting procedures and ensure they work well in practice prior to enactment. It will also allow health boards to test the waters and see what works well for them.” This will include trialling reporting templates.

We receive high level updates on progress via our membership of relevant stakeholder groups and we are engaging with Scottish Government on the detail of what this phase can tell us.

How have we been influencing on behalf of members?

  • We actively engaged with Scottish government at all stages of developing the Bill
  • Throughout 2023 we influenced the statutory guidance that supports the Act – this involved direct member engagement to enable us to ensure that your views directly reached Scottish government and informed the guidance
  • We’ve been involved with the Healthcare Staffing Programme, led by Health Improvement Scotland and throughout the ‘test and learn’ phase, as well as with equivalent activity undertaken by the Care Inspectorate.

How are we supporting members between now and 1 April 2024?

  • We’re directly supporting members with a development and education programme for our RCN reps, which will help reps to support members once the Act comes into force
  • We’ll keep members updated so you know what we’re doing on your behalf. Keep an eye on this webpage and our social media for latest news
  • We’ll advocate on your behalf if we become aware of issues and risks relating to safe staffing throughout 2024
  • We’ll develop a plan to evaluate the effectiveness of the implementation of the Actand we’ll engage directly with you on that plan

How can I find out more and get involved?

If you want to find out more about our development and education programme, please contact our RCN Scotland Learning and Development Team by email at

If you want to find out more about our policy work, please contact our RCN Scotland Policy team by email at

Retention strategy for nursing

Read our briefing explaining why the RCN in Scotland is calling on the Scottish Government to urgently develop and implement a nursing retention strategy to tackle the exodus of nursing staff from health and care services

Supporting our members

The legislation places a number of duties on Health Boards, care providers and Scottish Ministers. If implemented well, it will ensure that nursing staff can raise concerns about staffing levels without fear of repercussions and have these concerns listened to and recorded. RCN Scotland will be developing a series of resources to help support our members with implementation of this legislation. Check back on this page for updates in the near future.

Share your story

The pressure on you and our profession is greater than ever before. As the Voice of Nursing, the RCN wants to hear your story so we can understand the professional and personal impact of today’s pressures and demonstrate to politicians, employers, the public and the media the issues that are affecting the nursing workforce. 
Share your story

How we got here

The Health and Care (Staffing) (Scotland) Act gained Royal Assent on 6 June 2019. It is a ground-breaking piece of legislation as it is the first in the UK to set out requirements for safe staffing across both health and care services and most clinical professions.

The RCN’s ‘Ask for More’ campaign was instrumental in shaping the Act, with the majority of our asks being included.

You can read about how laws are made here and a summary of the legislation here.

Raising Concerns

The RCN believes everyone should feel safe and supported when raising concerns about patient care.

Find out what to do if you see poor care or feel you are being prevented from providing safe, compassionate care.
three raised hands multicoloured graphic

RCN report on the nursing workforce in Scotland

Our updated analysis of nursing workforce statistics and challenges facing workforce planning, RCN Scotland highlights the key trends, implications of the trends and makes recommendations for action to tackle the workforce crisis, including urgent need for a nursing retention strategy.

Your vote is your voice Scotland

Our aim is to ensure that the voice of nursing is well represented throughout this process. We know that this legislation alone will not fix the nursing workforce crisis. It needs to sit alongside fair pay and improved terms, conditions and culture to ensure we can recruit and retain the nursing workforce Scotland needs right now and in decades to come.

The RCN Nursing Workforce Standards, published in May 2021, are closely aligned to the Act and have been created to explicitly set out what must happen within workplaces to ensure the delivery of safe and effective patient care.

Page last updated - 14/02/2024