Nursing Group

Safe and Effective Care

Implementing and extending the Nurse Staffing Levels (Wales) Act 2016

  What is the Nurse Staffing Levels (Wales) Act 2016?

  • The Nurse Staffing Levels (Wales) Act 2016 became law on 21st March 2016.
  • Health Boards now have a legal duty to regard the importance of ensuring appropriate levels of nurse staffing in all settings.
  • In adults acute medical and surgical settings calculated and maintained, according to specified methodology.
  • Health Boards will have a duty to report on compliance with staffing requirements and take action if failings occur.
  • The Welsh Government has issued guidance on how to determine appropriate staffing levels.

  Why is this so important?

  • This law will protect patients. Research showed poor nurse staffing levels increased mortality by up to 26% compared to better staffed wards.
  • This historic Welsh law is the first of its kind in the UK. International precedents have been successful in reducing patient mortality.
  • This law will empower the ward sister/charge nurse and the Nurse Director equally to ensure that there are safe nurse staffing levels.
  • RCN members across Wales in all sectors rated achieving safe staffing as their top concern. They campaigned hard, sending postcards, signing petitions and giving evidence in the Assembly to make the case for legislation.

Progress and challenge:

Is the Safe Staffing Law being implemented effectively? In November 2019 RCN Wales published a report in which we looked at the progress on implementing Safe Staffing Levels. We reported successes but also identified areas of challenge.

Click to read the RCN Wales Report November 2019 for Implementation of the Nurse Staffing Levels (Wales) Act 2016 - Also available in Cymraeg

Become an E-champion:

To become an E-champion and receive regular newsletters, login to MyRCN and click on my forums & activities to sign up.

Value Nursing

Visit RCN Wales:

FacebookTwitter and  Instagram page for latest news, events and consultations.


Support for members

We're here to help

  • Find out what to do if you see poor care or feel you are being prevented from providing safe, compassionate care here.
  • If you are an RCN activist, please login to the reps hub to see the RCN Wales Safe Staffing toolkit. It has been designed by our Employment Relations Team to provide tips and resources that can help both yourselves and our members to escalate any concerns around the implementation of the Safe Staffing Act within their organisations.


Sandra Robinson-Clark Safe Staffing

Safe and Effective Care everywhere

RCN Wales is campaigning to protect patient care everywhere by extending section 25b of the Act

The Act’s provisions now need to be extended to other areas including children’s nursing, mental health, community and care homes. Further work is needed to ensure that better patient and staffing information in these fields is held and that workforce planning tools are developed.

Read our Care Home report here

Welsh language version of this report also available here


Male HCSW with patient

Safe Staffing - History of the Campaign in Wales

The Nurse Staffing Levels (Wales) Act 2016 became law on 21st March 2016

  • RCN Members campaigned hard, from 2006, for the Act we gained in 2016.
  • Watch the film which details RCN Wales' success in lobbying for legislation to improve patient care, here: An Act of Compassion.
  • Read the accompanying book, authored by Greg Lewis. The book documents the journey RCN members undertook, from first identifying the issue of insufficient nursing numbers, to the present, that sees us working closely with the Welsh Government to extend the scope of the Act to cover other areas of nursing care. An Act of Compassion book
  • Find out more about the history of the legislation here: Nurse Staffing Levels (Wales) Act 2016 
  • Richard Jones Safe Staffing

    Safe and Effective Care - What is happening around the UK?

    Take a look at what is happening in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland here.

    Page last updated - 11/06/2021