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.
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.
“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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