A “more nurses” bill has been passed by the Welsh Assembly, leaving it only needing the relative formality of royal assent before it becomes legislation.
The bill, which has now completed stage four of the law-making process, will require the setting of minimum nurse staffing levels for acute wards.
“The bill is short in nature and small, but I believe will deliver a big difference”
At a debate on the bill last night, Welsh Liberal Democrats party leader Kirsty Williams – who put forward the proposed legislation at the end of 2013 – said the country would become a “world leader” once the bill was given royal assent and became law.
She noted it would mean Wales became the first country in Europe to pass a law ensuring nurses on adult acute medical inpatient wards and surgical wards had the time to deliver “safe, effective and quality care”.
Ms Williams also reminded members of the Welsh Assembly last night that the Nurse Staffing Levels (Wales) Bill would legally require the use of not just safe staffing tools, but consideration for the acuity of patients and the professional judgement of the nurse in charge.
“It empowers them to state clearly what is in the best interest of the patients on that ward on any given day,” she said.
The bill also contains powers to extend this legal requirement to other settings such as mental health wards and community settings, she added.
Lib Dem urges united support for Welsh nurses’ bill
Ms Williams said it had been a “huge privilege” to lead the bill though parliament and paid tribute to nurses involved and their “eloquent testimony”.
“The bill is short in nature and small, but I believe will deliver a big difference the outcomes of Welsh patients and the ability of nurses to do what they do best – care for us all when we are in need,” she said.
Members of other parties also expressed their support for the bill, but noted better workforce planning and improved recruitment and retention strategies would now be needed to ensure it could deliver safer staffing.
Health minister for Wales Mark Drakeford highlighted the 10% increase in student nurse numbers announced by the Welsh government yesterday, which he said would “undoubtedly help meet the new duties imposed by the Wales staffing bill”.
“This is a truly historic step to improving patient care in the UK”
Tina Donnelly, director of the Royal College of Nursing in Wales, said: “This law will protect patients in Wales and will empower registered nurses to positively influence staffing decisions in our hospitals. This is a truly historic step to improving patient care in the UK and we are very proud that the National Assembly for Wales has led the way on this issue.
“It is particularly pleasing that this legislation has progressed towards royal assent as a consequence of the support of all the political parties represented in the assembly,” she said. “We are grateful to all members of the National Assembly for Wales who have supported this bill.
“The RCN believes that governments across the United Kingdom can really learn from this approach to safeguarding patient care,” she added.