Proposed safe nurse staffing legislation for hospital wards in Wales is widely supported by the general public, with almost 90% of people taking part in a poll saying it was important for the bill to be passed.
The survey of 250 people – commissioned by the Royal College of Nursing in Wales – found that, in particular, almost 60% said it was “very important” to introduce the law.
The Safe Nurse Staffing Levels (Wales) Bill was first put forward in December 2013 by Liberal Democrat Kirsty Williams.
If passed, it would see Wales become the first country in the UK with a legal duty on safe nurse staffing levels.
“There can be no higher priority for the Welsh Government than protecting the lives and wellbeing of patients by ensuring they receive safe nursing care”
The RCN noted that in California, where a similar law was introduced around a decade ago, 30-day mortality rates fell by 10-13%.
Tina Donnelly, director of RCN Wales, said: “Nurses support this legislation because it will save lives. This poll shows the public also strongly support the new law.
“There can be no higher priority for the Welsh Government than protecting the lives and wellbeing of patients by ensuring they receive safe nursing care,” she said.
The law is intended to apply to adult medical and surgical inpatient wards in acute hospitals.
It would require managers to set ratios for nurses to patients locally using an acuity tool, nurse indicators and professional judgement.
The bill gained support from the National Assembly for Wales’s health and social care committee earlier this year, but 19 recommendations were made for making changes to the draft version.
The committee noted the draft bill could potentially create problems, including diverting nursing staff from other settings and causing increased spend on agency and bank nurses in the short term.
Assembly members are due to discuss the financial implications of the bill tomorrow, as part of the next stage in the law-making process.
Ahead of the discussion on the financial resolution for the bill – which could result in the government authorising additional investment required to implement the law – Ms Williams conducted further analysis of the potential cost increases from using agency and bank nurses.
She noted that for the coming year, health boards were already expected to be using the same approach to safe nurse staffing for adult acute hospital settings as was being proposed in the bill, meaning their financial projections should not change if the law were introduced.
Using data from health board plans for future years and research by Cardiff University on temporary staffing costs last year, it was estimated that bank and agency nurse costs could be expected to rise from £19m in 2013-14 to almost £25m in 2016-17, when the bill is due to be introduced.
However, the research estimated temporary staffing costs would begin to fall from 2017 onwards, as the health board plans reviewed in the analysis had policies in place to significantly reduce agency costs by 2018.
Meanwhile, increased nurse training places and improved career development for nurses is expected to bring down bank spending.