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Lib dems bid to make minimum nurse level law in Wales

Wales could become the first country in the UK to establish a legal duty for safe nursing staff levels on hospital wards, if politicians back a new piece of legislation.

Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats Kirsty Williams proposed a bill that would see minimum nursing levels enshrined in law, after winning a ballot to introduce backbench legislation.

On 5 March Welsh Assembly members will vote on whether they are willing to debate the bill. If they vote in favour it will be discussed further and could become law.

Currently Wales lags behind the rest of the UK with a higher patient to nurse ratio and lower proportion of registered nurses as a percentage of total staff.

Kirsty Williams

Kirsty Williams

A recent Royal College of Nursing survey found more than half of nurses in Wales work extra hours every week, while 56% said they felt unable to provide the level of care they would like.

“I want Wales to lead the way in being the first country in the UK to establish a legal duty for safe nurse staffing levels,” said Ms Williams.

“This significant change has the potential to transform the quality of care provided in the Welsh NHS.”

The bill has been welcomed by the Royal College of Nursing in Wales, but its director Tina Donnelly said determining optimal staffing levels was complicated.

Tina Donnelly

“You need to take account of the setting, the acuity of the patients and the skill mix and experience of the staff,” she said.

“We are therefore pleased Kirsty Williams is mindful to also include a requirement for the regulations to address the complexity of patients’ needs and the skills mix in a hospital.”


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Readers' comments (9)

  • Lets hope they actually ask nurses who work in the areas their opinion rather than managers on what constitutes a safe staffiing level - otherwise it will be purely budget driven yet again

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  • bill whitehead

    Legislation to require minimum safe registered nurse staffing levels for hospital wards are way overdue in the UK. If set at a level that would provide quality patient care this would have a significant impact on both patient care and nurses' working lives. This would, of course need to legislate for the increasing number of private sector beds as well as direct NHS delivered nursing. Once enshrined in law this would set a fair and equal basic level of expenditure required by all healthcare employers. As such it would mean that all providers would have similar costs related to this and would remove this from any consideration of cost cutting.

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  • Kelly-Ann Mciver

    This is a brilliant idea! From a student perspective its a long term investment in improving the care provided to all patient. It will not only enhance safe patient care at present but will ensure student's on wards have the time to be trained and supervised properly, therefor enhancing patient safety and care in the future.

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  • I'm surprised this thread hasn't been filled with negative comments about minimum staffing levels as every other time it's been raised, posters have complained that minimum levels would become the new maximum. That attitude is fine if you work in a well staffed area, but those of us who don't would welcome such proposals.

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  • tinkerbell

    I can see how 'minimum' staffing levels could be abused when patients needs increase but if I had to come down on either side of this debate I would go for minimum because what we have now is still not addressing a lot of services that try to deliver good care with less than minimum staffing.

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  • Of course we should have minimum staffing levels - one nurse should not be expected to look after more than 8 patients in any setting, 8 is pushing it anyway.
    What will happen when they set minimum staffing levels that are not met? - close the wards, close to admissions, no, of course not, it's just a paper exercise and we will still be expected to 'cope' just as we always do.
    What will be done when we arrive on duty and we should have 6 trained on but we've only got 4? no-one cares, no-one will ever do anything about it.

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  • I agree, this is long LONG overdue!
    But is has be put in place properly and listen to those who are affected by the lack of staffing in their clinical areas, the nurses themselves and not some pseudo-quango types getting paid for doing some sort of feasibility study!
    We watch with baited breath!
    Also I have to agree with Anonymous | 14-Feb-2014 11:44 pm it does seem a little light on the comments front!

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  • I agree with colleagues this legislation is overdue. They still do not give the specific numbers in the brief.

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  • i regularly work overtime and have been penalised for opening my mouth about it, athough my colleagues do the same and keep quiet - management obviously not interested

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