Health boards and care providers will be required to have suitable staffing in place under new legislation published by the Scottish Government.
The Health and Care (Staffing) (Scotland) Bill will mean that NHS boards and care services are legally required to have appropriate numbers of trained staff in place, irrespective of where care is received. The bill is intended to help health and care services in their workload planning.
Health Secretary Shona Robison said: “We know there is a clear link between effective and sustainable staffing levels and high-quality care. NHS staffing has increased to a record high under this government but it’s vital we have the right staff in the right place, with the right skills, long into the future.
“This legislation will work in practice by ensuring staffing decisions take account of the needs of service users and staff, and are supported by available evidence. It will also promote openness and transparency about the basis of staffing decisions.
“Scotland has led the UK in the development and use of ground-breaking evidence-based approach to nursing and midwifery workload and workforce planning.
“Now, with the publication of this legislation, we take a further important step by creating a framework across health and care services to allow us to build on this approach wherever care is delivered.”
BMA Scotland chair Dr Peter Bennie said the move was “an important step”.
He said: “With a system that is under severe pressure and doctors and their colleagues stretched to their limits, it has never been more important to have the right mechanisms in place to ensure that staffing levels are safe.
“We hope that this bill can help introduce the right systems to help all staff feel safe and supported in delivering care in the demanding working environment that is Scotland’s NHS.”
He added: “However, there must also be an acceptance that this bill does nothing to tackle the core issues of recruitment and retention that are such a problem for NHS boards. Simply legislating for the right numbers of staff does not mean that more doctors will suddenly appear or vacancies will be easier to cover.”
Theresa Fyffe, Director, RCN Scotland said that having the right number of nursing staff with the right skills and knowledge is linked to safer care and better outcomes.
She added: “Our members have told us time and again that, because of staff shortages and every increasing demands on services, there are times when the staff working are not able to meet the needs of their patients.”