More than 1,500 people have signed a petition created by a leading nurse urging Welsh Assembly members to vote in favour of ground-breaking legislation on safe staffing levels.
The assembly’s health and social care committee is currently considering a safe staffing bill put forward by Kirsty Williams, leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats.
“The people of Wales all deserve the highest standards of healthcare being delivered by the appropriate numbers of registered nurses”
If the legislation is passed Wales will becomes the first UK nation to enshrine safe staffing levels in law.
The online petition in support of the bill was created by nurse Richard Jones, former deputy director of the Royal College of Nursing in Wales, who was awarded an MBE for his services to healthcare.
It was examined by the assembly’s petitions committee on Tuesday.
Mr Jones told the committee he had set up the petition, which has garnered 1,579 signatures, because he felt there was compelling evidence to suggest legislation on safe staffing could help save lives.
“I hope that this petition signed by over 1,500 people will demonstrate to your committee the strength of feeling behind the bill from ordinary members of the public,” he said in a letter to the committee.
“I have spoken personally to family friends and neighbours in support of this petition and many have been very surprised to find we do not currently have this legislation already within the NHS in Wales,” said Mr Jones.
“I have always believed that the people of Wales all deserve the highest standards of healthcare being delivered by the appropriate numbers of registered nurses and trained healthcare support workers,” he added.
The petitions committee agreed to formally refer the petition to the assembly’s health and social care committee to inform their deliberations.
Last week, the health and social care committee held a final evidence session where Ms Williams spelled out the need for a new law.
“What is important about this legislation is that it strengthens the arms of frontline staff”
Others, including health minister Mark Drakeford, have questioned the need for legislation arguing the government already has “powers of direction” to require health boards to use safe staffing tools. He has said he would be willing to use these powers.
But Ms Williams argued the powers were limited, relied on an individual minister making safe staffing a priority and less open to scrutiny.
“What is important about this legislation is that it strengthens the arms of frontline staff and members of the public to say I know that there is a law in this land that says this local health board has to provide safe staffing levels,” she said.
“This process gives us a permanency, a certainty, it gives power to the legislature and to ordinary members of the public to be able to hold local health boards to account and it ensures it happens not just now but in perpetuity,” she added.
The health and social care committee will now draw up a report and make recommendations to the rest of the assembly.