Safe nurse staffing levels could benefit from primary legislation says National Assembly Committee

Published 12/05/2015   |   Last Updated 11/05/2015

The National Assembly for Wales’s Health and Social Care Committee has agreed that legislation could help to improve the delivery of safe nurse staffing levels in Wales, but has called for a series of amendments to the Bill in order to avoid possible unintended consequences.

The Safe Nurse Staffing Levels (Wales) Bill, introduced by Kirsty Williams AM in December 2013 following her success in a Members’ legislative ballot, aims to ensure that nurses are deployed in sufficient numbers to deliver safe nursing care to patients at all times. It also seeks to address the conclusions of recent high-profile reports on the performance of the NHS in England and Wales which have drawn attention to the importance of nurse staffing levels for patient outcomes.

The Committee unanimously supports the Bill’s aim, but has made 19 recommendations it believes should be implemented before the legislation is passed. Many of the recommendations focus on the Committee’s concerns that the Bill could lead to a number of unintended consequences, not least the risk of diverting nursing staff from one hospital setting to another. The Committee is also concerned that current nurse shortages may be a significant barrier to the successful implementation of the Bill’s provisions.

David Rees AM, Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee said:

"The pivotal role of nurses in the delivery of high quality, effective care for patients is widely acknowledged and the Committee welcomed the opportunity to scrutinise the Bill.

"The evidence presented led us to conclude that primary legislation on safe nurse staffing levels could be beneficial to the Welsh Government, adding to existing tools and powers the Minister has in this area.

"Nevertheless, this conclusion is not unconditional: we believe that a number of amendments are required before this legislation is passed, not least to mitigate some of the potentially significant unintended consequences that could be created by the Bill as currently drafted."