Kirsty Williams AM, leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats , is calling for Wales to become the first country in the UK to establish a legal duty for safe nurse staffing levels in hospital wards.
Having been successful in a National Assembly ballot which allows backbench AMs to introduce legislation. She is proposing a Bill calling for minimum nursing levels to be enshrined in law.
Assembly Members will vote on 5th March on whether or not the proposed bill will be allowed to progress though the system to committee stage where it will be fully scrutinised. From there the Welsh Liberal Democrats are keen to see it become law.
The proposal has the full backing of the Royal College of Nursing in Wales. At a joint press conference with the RCN Kirsty Williams said:
"We have three weeks left to make the case for this bill to progress to the next stage. I want Wales to lead the way in being the first country in the UK to establish a legal duty for safe nurse staffing levels. Such a move has been proven to improve patient outcomes.
"This significant change has the potential to transform the quality of care provided in the Welsh NHS. Nurses who have fewer patients to tend are able to spend a greater amount of time with each patient and as a result can provide better care."
Tina Donnelly, Director of the Royal College of Nurses in Wales, added
"A Minimum nurse staffing levels bill emphasises that nursing staff need to be given time to perform their role to their highest caring ability. Determining an optimal level of staffing to deliver good quality care is complex and needs to take account of the setting, the acuity of the patients and the skill mix and experience of the staff. We are therefore pleased that Kirsty Williams is mindful to also include a requirement for the regulations to address the complexity of patients' needs and on the skills mix in a hospital."
Members of the public are also asked to give their backing to the proposal by visiting 'More nurses' and can find out more here
Welsh Liberal Democrat Councillor Mike Powell said
"As with so many aspects of our health service Wales is again lagging behind the rest of the UK with regard to nurse staffing levels.
"A nurse in Wales cares for on average 10.5 patients at any one time, compared with 8.8 in Scotland, 8.5 in England and only 7.2 in Northern Ireland. Only 56% of staff in Welsh hospitals are registered nurses, as opposed to 60% and 59% in Scotland and England respectively.
"This is unfair on both patients and staff and is something that needs to be addressed in order to drive up standards of care.
"The public can get behind this campaign by visiting the dedicated website, signing the petition, and also writing to their local AMs asking whether they will support the progress of Kirsty's Bill."