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  • 03 May 2019
  • 3 min read

New law on health and care staffing approved by MSPs

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The Health and Care Staffing (Scotland) Bill was proposed after concerns about workforce planning.

The legislation puts enhanced existing workforce planning tools on a statutory footing

A new law ensuring safe levels of staffing in health and care has been passed unanimously at Holyrood.

The Health and Care (Staffing) (Scotland) Bill was put forward following concerns about workforce planning in the NHS and by care providers.

"The NHS’s greatest asset is its staff. It is good news that a requirement to deliver safe levels of staffing is now law in Scotland" - BMA Chairman Lewis Morrison

The legislation puts enhanced existing workforce planning tools on a statutory footing, aiming to ensure safe and appropriate staffing levels.

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A union welcomed the new law but warned it will “not create new doctors”. Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said: “This is an important Bill that will promote safe staffing across our NHS and social care services and in doing so improve patient experience.

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

She added: “Being open about decisions on staffing allows health boards to allocate staff efficiently and effectively.

“I want staff to feel engaged and informed about decisions relating to staffing requirements and feel safe to raise any concerns about staffing levels.

“I would also like to thank our key partners across the health and care sector for their constructive engagement with us and for their considerable input in this new law.

“We will continue to work with them to ensure this legislation is implemented effectively and drives positive change.”

British Medical Association Scotland chairman Lewis Morrison said: “The NHS’s greatest asset is its staff.

“On that basis, it is good news that a requirement to deliver safe levels of staffing is now law in Scotland.”

He added: “The new duties this will place on both NHS boards and the Scottish Government to plan for and deliver adequate staffing levels will clearly help frontline NHS staff.”

Mr Morrison said guidance must follow the new law, be shaped by clinicians and work effectively but warned there are “not enough doctors” to meet demands.

He added: “While there are many positives from the Bill, it will not create more doctors – or staff of any type – simply by becoming law.

“Instead, we need much more concerted and targeted action to recruit and retain doctors and make the profession an attractive career choice once again.”

A Labour amendment to the Bill secured a cap on agency fees of one and half times the equivalent cost for an NHS employee to do the shift as the party said agencies currently charge up to four times as much.

Anas Sarwar, Labour MSP for Glasgow, 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.”

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