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by Tom Freeman
02 May 2019
NHS staffing laws passed unanimously by MSPs

NHS Scotland nurses - Scottish Government

NHS staffing laws passed unanimously by MSPs

Health boards and other care providers in Scotland will have to keep to legal duties on staffing levels, after new laws were passed unanimously by the Scottish Parliament.

Every political party backed the Health and Social Care (Staffing) (Scotland) Bill, which will ensure employers make decisions on staffing on the grounds of safety and use live data in workforce planning.

Several cross-party amendments were also passed on the final day of debate, including capping the amount spent on agency staff and giving senior charge nurses more responsibility in co-ordinating safe care.

This follows a campaign from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) to free up the workload of senior nurses so they can provide a safety oversight.

Speaking after the vote, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said she wanted health and social care staff to feel “engaged and informed” in workforce planning.

“This is an important Bill that will promote safe staffing across our NHS and social care services and, in doing so, improve patient experience,” she said.

“It will ensure that the right people with the right skills are in the right place at the right time.

“When I visited NHS Forth Valley this morning I witnessed first-hand the positive impact of having a culture of transparency in decision-making.”

RCN Scotland Director, Theresa Fyffe, said: “Throughout the campaign our members consistently asked for more from the legislation. It’s clear that their personal stories have had an impact and that they have been listened to.

“With this legislation the Scottish Government has set expectations on standards of care and who is accountable for maintaining safe staffing. Over the coming months we will continue our work, supporting the development of guidance and the plan for implementation.

“However, we’ve been clear from the outset that legislation alone will not solve the nursing staff challenges that face Scotland’s NHS and care home sector.

“What’s needed is a change in our wider safety culture and a fully funded, long-term workforce planning process that ensures Scotland has the right number of nursing staff to meet future needs.”

Labour’s Anas Sarwar, who introduced the amendment to cap agency staff spend, said: “Capping agency fees in our health service is a vital step to ensure more public money is staying in our public services, rather than going into the pockets of shareholders.

“This new provision will require Scottish ministers to step up and take responsibility for ending the NHS’s over-reliance on expensive agency workers.”

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