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Kirsty Williams calls for Minimum Nurse Staffing Levels

April 23, 2013 12:04 PM

In the wake of the Mid Staffordshire scandal, Kirsty Williams, Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, is calling for a change in the law to require minimum staffing levels for nurses in Wales.

The idea of setting minimum staffing quotas was put forward in the Francis Report, which looked at failings in the care provided by Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust and cited long-term low staffing levels as one reason which contributed to poor treatment.

While the Francis report predominately dealt with the NHS in England, figures have revealed that Wales lags behind the rest of the UK in two key indicators of nurse staffing levels.

Scotland

England

Wales

N Ireland

Mean patients per nurse

8.8

8.5

10.5

7.2

RNs as a percentage of staff

60

59

56

66

(Source: RCN)

Similar legislation has been introduced in California, New South Wales and Victoria (Australia) where it has improved nurse staffing levels and patient care. Studies in California have shown that such a change has significantly reduced mortality rates.

Kirsty Williams has entered the proposal into the Private Member's Ballot. The draw will take place this Wednesday (23rd April) in the National Assembly. If selected, the proposed legislation would be debated in the National Assembly and, if agreed to, would then start the process to be introduced as legislation.

Kirsty Williams AM commented:

"This significant change in the law has the potential to transform the quality of care that our NHS provides in Wales.

"It is staggering to see the vast difference in the ratio of nurses to patients in Wales when compared to the rest of the UK. Once again Welsh Labour's poverty of ambition has led to our NHS having to do more, but with less.

"NHS staff work incredibly hard, doing an exceptionally difficult job, but far too often they are being overworked and unable to offer patients the best care possible.

"The Francis report emphasised the importance of staffing levels in its investigation into the Mid Staffordshire scandal and there is strong evidence to support the fact that minimum nurse staffing levels improve patient outcomes. It is for this reason that the Welsh Liberal Democrats believe that minimum nursing levels should be enshrined in law.

"Nurses who have fewer patients to tend to are able to spend a greater amount of their time with each patient and, as a result, can provide better care. If they are more easily able to identify potential problems with a patient's care, then they are able to a play a preventative, rather than simply reactive, role. Not only would this lead to fewer patients needing treatment, but it would also consequently mean less of a cost to the NHS. "

END

Notes:

The legislation would require the government to produce regulations which set a minimum staffing level for nurses in Wales. These regulations would be required to set minimum nurse staffing levels for each different acute and specialty service.

The legislation would also give the government the power to use similar regulations for community nursing, but only when they considered that sufficient evidence exists to support regulations in this area.

In 2011, the Royal College of Nursing Congress overwhelmingly supported the idea of legally enforceable staffing levels to improve patient care.