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Most GP practices excluded from Scotland’s new safe staffing law

Most GP practices excluded from Scotland’s new safe staffing law

Requirements of the new health and care safe staffing legislation in Scotland will differ across general practice settings according to the operating model of individual practices.

The Health and Care (Staffing) (Scotland) Act 2019 came into effect this month, setting out requirements for safe staffing across NHS and care services.

The scope of the Act places a legal duty on NHS and care providers to make sure there are always suitably qualified staff working in the right numbers for safe and effective care.

The Act also imposes a duty on the Scottish Government to ensure there are sufficient numbers of registered nurses, midwives and medical professionals available to enable employers to meet their duty to ensure safe staffing.

However, many GP practices will not be bound by the legislation because they are not directly run by a health board in Scotland, meaning many general practice nurses will not see the benefits of safe staffing regulations.

Our sister title Pulse reported last year that around 8% of GP practices in Scotland are being run by a health board.

Those directly run by a health board would see the Act apply in the same way as it does to other health board services, such as in hospitals.

However, for the majority of practices that are independent contractors, they will not come under the legislation.

In cases where independent practices use staff who are employed by the health board to work in the practice, these individual staff members would be covered by the Act.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Scotland hailed the Act across health boards and care providers as ‘an important milestone’, but called for the implementation to be accompanied by investment, innovation and continued scrutiny to enable the retention of existing nursing staff and to ‘establish a sustainable nursing workforce for the future’.

RCN Scotland pointed to ‘stubbornly high’ nursing vacancy rates and staff shortages, and called for an annual parliamentary debate on safe staffing.

A recent RCN poll found that 84% of the public believe there are not enough nursing staff across health and care services to provide safe and effective care.

The survey also found that 90% of people believe more should be done to protect the wellbeing of nursing staff, and 84% think nursing staff should be paid more for the work they do.

Mr Poolman added: ‘The Scottish public are under no illusion – they are experiencing first-hand the impact of record waiting times and staff shortages.

‘The findings from the recent polling echo those expressed by RCN members who are concerned that unacceptable and unsafe working conditions are being normalised.’

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