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Doctors leaders call for safe medical staffing levels in Welsh hospitals

A senior Welsh doctor has called on the Welsh Government to introduce legislation that sets safe minimum levels of doctor cover to ensure patient safety. 

Speaking at the BMA’s annual representative meeting in Brighton Dr Ram Kumar, Chair of the BMA’s Welsh staff and associate specialists (SAS) committee, told delegates that the introduction of such legislation is a “natural progression” and would be “a huge step forward for patient safety.” 

In his remarks Dr Kumar said:

“Time and again we hear how rota gaps are causing havoc in our workplaces, severely impacting the delivery of care, as well as the quality of training and adding to a system already under immense pressure.

“Two years ago, Wales became the first country in Europe to introduce safe staffing laws for nursing. Now we are asking why, in Wales, can’t we see minimum safe standards for doctors as well?

“It is what our members want, in a recent survey most respondents said that guaranteed safe levels of medical staffing would most improve their day-to-day working lives.

“When NHS organisations fail to comply with recommended ratios, and where local workforce planning fails repeatedly, laws and regulations become necessary.”

Dr David Bailey, chair of the BMA’s Welsh council, led the BMA’s annual representative meeting in supporting Dr Kumar’s motion stating that:

“Arguments against having minimum standards are outdated. Pressures due to rota gaps are so severe now that anyone working in emergency departments or OOH across Wales would welcome a ceiling that can be flexed up, but never down with open arms. That could only ever be a marked improvement on the status quo.”

RCN Wales, who successfully lobbied for the introduction of the Nurse Staffing Levels (Wales) Act also supported the motion.

Helen Whyley, Associate Director (Employment Relations) Royal College of Nursing in Wales said:

“This would be a great opportunity and another first for Wales. We know that the right number of health care professionals with the right skills makes a difference to the outcomes for patients. It is time to protect patient care.”


Notes to editors:


The motion was debated between 10:35 – 10:55am on Tuesday 26 June at the BMA’s annual representative meeting at the Brighton Centre.

The Nurse Staffing Levels (Wales) Act 2016 places a legal duty on health boards to have “due regard” to the number of registered nurses needed to allow nurses time to care for patients sensitively. The Act can be read here. 

The motion in full is: Motion by WELSH COUNCIL: That this meeting following on from the enactment of the Nurse Staffing Levels (Wales) Act 2016, and with particular regard to out of hours
staffing of hospital cover, calls on the Welsh Government to take appropriate steps to
similarly introduce an agreed safe minimum level of doctor cover to ensure the safety
of patients that hospitals must provide.

For further information please contact:

BMA Cymru Wales, Fifth floor, 2 Caspian Point, Caspian Way, Cardiff Bay, Cardiff, CF10 4DQ
Telephone: 0292 047 4608
Mobile: 074 08865452
Email: [email protected]