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10.02.16

Wales set to pass minimum nurse staffing levels law

The Welsh Assembly looks set to pass a Bill later today ensuring hospitals in Wales have sufficient nurse staffing levels on wards at all times.

The Nurse Staffing Levels (Wales) Bill will require the setting of minimum nurse staffing levels for acute wards, and provide a statutory basis for patients and staff to challenge poor levels of nurse staffing.

The Bill was introduced by Kirsty Williams AM, Welsh leader of the Liberal Democrats, on 11 December 2013, but has been through multiple committee stages and revisions since then.

Williams said: “This small but fundamental change in the way we staff our wards with nurses will undoubtedly save lives.”

“The logic is simple: more nurses on our wards means each nurse can spend more time with each patient, ensuring better care as a result.”

She said the Bill would also save money because hospital trusts wouldn’t have to spend so much on agency nurses.

It aims to avoid scandals such as the failings at Mid Staffs, where between 400 and 1,200 patients died because of a lack of care between 2005 and 2009.

The Francis report found the trust’s failings were caused partly by chronic shortages of nursing staff.

Tina Donnelly, director of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Wales, said: “We applaud the support of Stage 3 of the Bill, which will protect patients and empower registered nurses to drive staffing decisions in our hospitals.

“When healthcare organisations fail to comply with recommended nurse to patient ratios, laws and regulations become necessary. This is a historic step in improving patient care and we are very proud the National Assembly of Wales has led the way with support from all political parties.”

RCN Wales’s former deputy director Richard Jones MBE created an online petition urging Welsh assembly members to vote in favour of the Bill, which attracted more than 1,500 signatures.

Last year the UK RCN expressed concern about NICE’s affordability-driven decision to suspend its work on safe nurse staffing levels.

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