Safe and Effective Care in Wales
Implementing and extending the Nurse Staffing Levels (Wales) Act 2016
By protecting nurse staffing levels, we can protect patients.
Nursing is a safety-critical profession. A shortage of registered nurses can increase mortality by up to 26%. On the other hand, with every 10% rise in the number of degree educated nurses, patients are 7% less likely to die.
Having more nursing staff around also reduces all kinds of other risks including falls and medication errors. It allows nursing staff time to care for people in a way that is compassionate and sensitive to their needs.
What is RCN Wales campaigning for now?
Under Welsh law, in certain kinds of ward health boards have to use a specific method to calculate the number of nurses they need. They then have to tell people what that number is, and try to provide that many nurses. RCN Wales members made this happen.
We believe these requirements, known as Section 25B, should apply everywhere nursing care is delivered in Wales.
Watch the Welsh Parliament debate extending Section 25B
10,572 people signed our petition to make this debate happen.
It's a law that protects nurse staffing levels in Wales.
It's the first law of its kind in the UK, and the result of a years-long campaign by RCN Wales members. It makes health boards and NHS trusts legally responsible for providing enough nursing staff in their nursing services and those they commission.
The law says health boards and NHS trusts in Wales must "have regard to the importance of providing sufficient nurses to allow the nurses time to care for patients sensitively". Health boards also have to publish a report on how successful they've been at complying and take action if failings occur. In some types of ward, the requirements go further - see "What is Section 25B?" below.
Section 25B says that in certain kinds of ward, health boards have to:
- calculate the number of nurses appropriate to provide care to patients in a specified way,
- inform patients of this number, and
- take all reasonable steps to maintain it.
Just two kinds of ward came under Section 25B when it came into force in 2018, but a clause in the law allows politicians to extend it.
This could allow new areas like children's wards, community nursing and mental health wards to benefit. Five years later, it has been extended once - to children's wards.
We have a moral obligation to protect patients from avoidable harm. Section 25B works. RCN Wales believes Section 25B should apply everywhere nursing care is delivered in Wales.
Effective care maximises what goes right. Safe care minimises what goes wrong. By protecting nurse staffing levels, we can ensure everyone receive the safe and effective care they need and deserve.
Find out what to do if you see poor care or feel you are being prevented from providing safe, compassionate care here.
How have health boards implemented the Nurse Staffing Levels (Wales) Act 2016? This major new report updates the 2019 edition.
Explore and get involved
Page last updated - 06/10/2023