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Nurse Staffing Levels (Wales) Act 2016

The Nurse Staffing Levels (Wales) Act 2016 (the 2016 Act) ensures that nurse staffing levels within the Welsh NHS are sufficient to provide safe, effective and quality nursing care to patients at all times by:

  • placing an overarching duty on all NHS health service bodies in Wales (Local Health Boards and NHS Trusts) to have regard to the importance of ensuring enough nurses are available to care for patients sensitively, whether they are providing those services themselves of securing nursing services from a third party
  • placing a duty on NHS health service bodies in Wales (where they provide nursing services) to designate persons to calculate safe, locally appropriate nurse staffing levels
  • placing a duty on NHS health service bodies to maintain those staffing levels, initially in adult inpatient wards in acute hospitals (this duty has been extended to other settings by regulations – see below) 
  • placing a duty on the Welsh Ministers to issue guidance on the duty to calculate nurse staffing levels and the method of calculation, ensuring that factors such as the supervisory functions of staff, the qualifications, skills and experience of nurses and other staff providing care, and the ward environment, are properly considered
  • placing a duty on NHS health service bodies in Wales to report to the Welsh Government on their compliance with the nurse staffing requirements and any actions taken in response to failings. 

The Explanatory Notes to the 2016 Act provide detailed commentary on the various provisions.

Coming into force:

The 2016 Act came into force on 21 March 2016, which was the day it received Royal Assent, in accordance with section 2(1). This section also provides that section 1 comes into force when the Welsh Ministers make one or more orders. The following orders have been made:

The Nurse Staffing Levels (Wales) Act 2016 (Commencement) Order 2016
The Nurse Staffing Levels (Wales) Act 2016 (Commencement No. 2) Order 2021

Subordinate legislation made under the Act:

TitleCitation numberMade dateComing into force dateSupporting documents
The Nurse Staffing Levels (Extension of Situations) (Wales) Regulations 20212021 N0. 216 (W. 53)1 March 20211 October 2021Explanatory Memorandum 
The Nurse Staffing Levels (Wales) Act 2016: statutory guidance (version 2) 4 March 20214 March 2021 

Consideration of the legislation by the Senedd: 

The Bill was introduced by Kirsty Williams AM on 1 December 2014.  She had been successful in a legislative ballot held on 11 December 2013 and given lead to proceed with her Bill by the Senedd (then National Assembly) on 5 March 2014. The Bill was passed by Senedd Cymru (then known as the National Assembly for Wales) on 10 February 2016.

More information about the Bill is available on the Senedd’s website, including a record of the passage of the Bill through Senedd and the Explanatory Memorandum that was prepared by the Kirsty Williams AM (as revised after Stage 2). The National Assembly for Wales also produced this useful Bill Summary

The Act received Royal Assent on 21 March 2016.

Published on
Last updated
02 August 2023