Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Wales staffing laws guidance to be drafted by autumn

  • 4 Comments

Guidance on how employers and health boards in Wales should abide by new nurse staffing laws is to be developed for consultation this autumn, with full compliance across adult acute medical and surgical inpatient wards required from April 2018.

The country’s health secretary today ordered the commencement of the new Nurse Staffing Levels (Wales) Act 2016 to put in motion the steps for implementing the regulations.

“This act provides a route map for NHS organisations to determine what is needed”

Jean White

The act, which was passed in March, requires Welsh health boards and NHS trusts to maintain staffing levels that are calculated using professional judgement and evidence-based workforce tools, and by taking into account the acuity of patients, and ratios of nurses to patients.

Nursing experts will now help to develop the guidance for this part of the act, which will be consulted on in the autumn.

According to plans laid out today, adult acute medical and surgical inpatient wards will be required to abide by this requirement from April 2018.

At the same time, from April 2018 health boards and trusts will also be legally required to report on nurse staffing levels, and Welsh ministers will have to publish these and provide them to the National Assembly for Wales.

Ahead of this, from April 2017, health boards and trusts will be legally required to ensure that there are sufficient nurses to care for patients sensitively.

The act states they must do this by carrying out workforce planning including for nurse recruitment, retention, education and training.

wales health secretary

wales health secretary

Vaughan Gething at Bridgend’s Princess of Wales Hospital

Health secretary Vaughan Gething met with representatives from the Royal College of Nursing and staff at the Princess of Wales Hospital in Bridgend today to announce the next steps for implementing the law.

“Nurses are the beating heart of the NHS here in Wales. It was good to be with representatives from the RCN, as well as staff at the Princess of Wales, to announce the commencement of the Act and to hear first-hand their experiences of doing the job, day to day,” he said.

“Listening to both the good, and the challenges they face is incredibly valuable and I look forward to meeting with them again in the near future,” he added.

Chief nursing officer for Wales Jean White said: “We want to ensure that the nursing workforce is appropriate to meet the needs of patients in the NHS in Wales and this act provides a route map for NHS organisations to determine what is needed.”

She said today’s event was an “important milestone” in marking the beginning stages of how to bring in the law.

RCN Wales director Tina Donnelly said: “The RCN wholeheartedly welcomes the official commencement of this act which will transform patient care.

“We look forward to working with the Welsh government to ensure the enablement of appropriate nurse staffing levels and skill mix will deliver sufficient time for nurses to deliver safe care,” she said.

  • 4 Comments

Readers' comments (4)

  • milton pena

    As a campaigner for legislation on mandatory nurse and midwife to patient staffing ratios in England for many years I fully support the Welch Bill. I deeply regret that in England the recommendations in the individual reports of Francis [2013], Keogh [2013], Cavendish[2013] and Berwick [2013] have been ignored.
    Yesterday, whilst travelling in Cumbria, I heard on a local radio about the appalling nursing staffing levels in a Carlyle NHS hospital, I am sure this is happening in many other Trusts all over England.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • michael stone

    I'll be fascinated by how they manage to turn this - an admirable objective - into a 'regulation':

    Ahead of this, from April 2017, health boards and trusts will be legally required to ensure that there are sufficient nurses to care for patients sensitively.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • While I admire the sentiment behind the bill, I just cannot see how it achievable within the timescales quoted.

    As a former RN and now and Managing Director of a Framework Agency Nurse supplier in Wales, I continue to witness first hand the shortfall of nurses within the Welsh health system. Health Boards in Wales can only meet 80% of their temporary staffing demand currently. So if as the RCN is expecting this new system increases staffing numbers where will the additional nurses come from?

    Student Nurse training places have been increased by 22% but this does not even cover the appalling attrition rate from the current courses. Then there is the amount of nurses due to retire to consider and the massive drain of very experienced RN’s from the NHS to agencies, which nobody wants to recognise or talk about.

    The experience drain is extremely worrying as this group of nurses have always provided mentorship and guidance to newly qualified staff and by losing them form the permanent workforce you will end up with a massive gap in nurse development.

    The publishing of staffing numbers means that staff and patients will be aware when a ward is understaffed leading to further erosion of staff morale and an increase in anxiety for the patients. I mean who wants to be admitted to a ward that is understaffed.

    What will the response be if the ward is recognised as understaffed? Will the ward be closed? I don’t think that will be possible.

    And of course there is the bigger risk what if the system shows that the ward is overstaffed? Will the Nurses be moved to cover other unfamiliar areas? In my experience substantive NHS Nurses are not overly comfortable being moved to cover other wards, this will lead to a further decline in morale and a further migration to agency work as if they are being moved around by the NHS they may as well join an agency.

    The RCN could end up in a difficult position with some of its members particularly if this allows Health Boards to reduce heads or it becomes a tool to allow managers to demand more work from an already stressed workforce. It is already being scoffed at in break rooms up and down Wales, damned in many ways before it has even started.

    The current disconnect between the managers/unions etc and the grassroots is so wide, they don’t ask the staff what they want, what would make their working lives easier, happier and more productive. They go on Twitter or go to conferences where they already engaged live and pedal these ideas and the “great and the good” all think its marvellous but they overlook 85% of the nursing workforce who get more energised by an article concerning the colour of a nurses hair rather than an article asking who is standing up for nursing?

    We need an honest workforce debate where people can say what they want openly rather than feeling the have to hide behind anonymous comments on here.

    We need visionary nurse leaders who are think differently, who are brave, supportive and visible before the profession that I love, that has given me such a wonderful career is eroded further.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • michael stone

    Hi Alyx,

    It is interesting, isn't it - your '... they overlook 85% of the nursing workforce who get more energised by an article concerning the colour of a nurses hair rather than an article asking who is standing up for nursing?'

    Must admit, I've not looked at the 'hair' piece - but I had noticed it has attracted a lot of comments.

    This staffing thing, is a 'damned if you do, and ...' situation. Your:

    'The publishing of staffing numbers means that staff and patients will be aware when a ward is understaffed leading to further erosion of staff morale and an increase in anxiety for the patients. I mean who wants to be admitted to a ward that is understaffed.'

    is supposed to push management into providing more nurses for the ward - as you say, they will probably either close the ward (whether you need the ward, should be measured by the number of patients) or 'poach' nurses from other wards. But, as you also say, you need enough staff - you cannot distribute 20 nurses, if you only have 15 at hand.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.