A new Nurse Staffing Levels Act has been given a commencement schedule in Wales.
The new Act places a duty on local health boards and NHS Trusts to take steps to maintain nurse staffing levels in adult acute medical and surgical inpatient wards.
However, the legislation also demands a broader consideration to the number of nurses necessary to providing high quality for patients in all settings.
Kirsty Williams, assembly member, introduced the Safe Nurse Staffing Levels (Wales) Bill in December 2014 as a Private Member’s Bill. The Act received Royal Assent on 21 March 2016.
The next step for the Act will be to work in consultation with nursing experts to develop the guidance.
This will be followed by a public consultation later this year on how guidance should support LHBs and NHS Trusts to implement the legislation.
Vaughan Gething, Welsh cabinet secretary for health, ordered the commencement of the Act while meeting representatives from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), as well as staff at the Princess of Wales Hospital in Bridgend.
He said: “As I’ve said before, nurses are the beating heart of the NHS here in Wales. It was good to be with representatives from the RCN, as well as staff at the Princess of Wales, to announce the commencement of the Act and to hear first hand their experiences of doing the job, day to day.
“Listening to both the good, and the challenges they face is incredibly valuable and I look forward to meeting with them again in the near future.
“I’d like to thank Kirsty Williams AM for bringing this Bill forward, I’m sure it will help deliver improvements in the care that patients in Wales receive in our NHS.”
Professor Jean White, Chief Nursing Officer for Wales, said: “We want to ensure that the nursing workforce is appropriate to meet the needs of patients in the NHS in Wales and this Act provides a route map for NHS organisations to determine what is needed. Today is an important milestone as it marks the beginning of the process to implement the Act and is warmly welcomed.”
Tina Donnelly, director of the Royal College of Nursing in Wales said: “The RCN wholeheartedly welcomes the official commencement of this Act which will transform patient care.
“We look forward to working with the Welsh Government to ensure the enablement of appropriate nurse staffing levels and skill mix will deliver sufficient time for nurses to deliver safe care.
“RCN activists and members have played a significant role in securing the new legislation by highlighting the issue with Welsh Assembly Members and raising the many benefits to patients of having enough staff to provide the right level of care.
“This is the first legislation of its kind in the UK and Europe, and an example of what frontline health care staff and politicians can achieve when they work together in the interests of patients.”