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Safe Staffing

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

Our members campaigned hard, sent postcards, signed petitions and gave evidence at the National Assembly for Wales to make the case for legislation.

We now need to work with the Welsh Government and build on the success of the passing of this historic Act. We need to be fully involved in its implementation, responding to public consultations on the comprehensive guidance to be issued to Health Boards.

We also look forward to the extension of the Act to other core areas, such as mental health, maternity and children’s nursing.

Where are we now?

What is the Nurse Staffing Levels (Wales) Act?

  • 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 adult acute care settings, an appropriate nurse staffing level must be calculated and maintained.
  • 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.

The Campaign for Safe Staffing Legislation

  • 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.
  • Find out more about the history of the legislation here: Nurse Staffing Levels (Wales) Act 2016 

What happens next?

Scrutinising Implementation

  • The Royal College of Nursing Wales wants to work with the Welsh Government to ensure the guidance for implementing the law is comprehensive, clear and achieves the aims of the Act.
  • We will also continue to campaign to ensure sustainable workforce planning is at the heart of the NHS and sufficient numbers of nurses are educated to help fulfill the Act’s aims.
  • Our Employment Relations Team have created an Activist Toolkit to help you hold your Local Health Board to account.  Coming soon.

Extending 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.

Questions to ask Health Boards

  • How are you ensuring appropriate nurse staffing levels through your workforce planning?
  • How have the requirements of the Act been communicated to all staff?
  • Which of your wards fall under the requirements of the Act?
  • How are patients being informed of the staffing level on their ward?
  • Have any breaches occurred in complying with the legislation, and what measures are in place to address this for the future?

RCN Member or Assembly Member?  
Join the RCN as we campaign.

Click here to download and share the Effective Implementation poster with Questions to ask our Heath Boards.
Click here to download and share the Protecting Patient Care, Everywhere poster with our Questions to ask our Welsh Government.

Get in touch

See Facebook or Twitter for our latest events and consultations. 

Contact RCN Wales Policy & Public Affairs.

Page last updated - 10/04/2019