Staffing for safe and effective care

The Health and Care (Staffing) (Scotland) Act gained Royal Assent on 6 June.

This is a ground-breaking piece of legislation. The Act is the first in the UK to set out requirements for safe staffing across both health and care services and most clinical professions. 

The Act was almost three years in the making.

Scottish Government’s intention to introduce legislation for staffing for safe and effective care was announced at RCN Congress in Glasgow in 2016. Since then RCN members and staff have been working to influence and shape the legislation for the benefit of patients, care home residents and members.

Through the ‘Ask for More’ campaign the RCN called for the legislation to do more than put the existing workload and workforce planning tools on a statutory footing. These calls were answered, with the majority of our asks included in the final Act. 

Over 5,000 people pledged their support and the RCN would like to thank everyone who to action during our Ask for More campaign. 

The passing of the Health and Care (Staffing) (Scotland) Act is only a starting point. The timetable for implementation is still to be set and a lot of work will be required to develop the associated guidance and secondary legislation to support implementation. 
The Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport committed to developing the guidance in collaboration. The RCN will continue to engage in this process, taking every opportunity to influence and shape how the Act will impact on the day-to-day running of the health and care services. Work will also continue on the review of existing and the development of new workforce planning methodologies and tools.

Check back on this page for updates in the near future.
You can find out more about how laws are made here.

RCN Scotland's key campaigning themes were:

  • Positive Outcomes - Positive outcomes for people and staff must be at the heart of decision making.
  • Informed Decision Making - All decisions about staffing for nursing teams must be based on data and evidence, which is robust, up to date, and used appropriately.
  • A Strong Professional Voice - Nursing leaders, whether at a ward, team or governance level, should be able to exercise their professional judgement about whether there are the right number of nursing staff with the right knowledge, skills and experience, in the right place and at the right time.
  • Responsibility, Accountability, Real Time Action and Long Term Planning - Organisations must take responsibility for providing the right number of nursing staff. Staff should have the right knowledge, skills and experience and be deployed in the right place and at the right time to provide safe, high quality care to patients.
  • Scrutiny and Sanction - There must be public scrutiny of staffing for safe and effective care and sanction if the law is not met.
  • Staff To Care For People Across Scotland - This legislation is a starting point. Work must continue to ensure that Scotland has the health and care staff it needs across nursing and other disciplines. The Scottish Government must take responsibility for ensuring a supply of nursing staff that meets demand.

Find out more about what the RCN has been doing

If you want to know more about the RCN's work on staffing for safe and effective care you can contact the team at

Page last updated - 02/12/2019