Key messages

On 21 February 2019, amendments to the Safe Patient Care (Nurse to Patient and Midwife to Patient Ratios) Act 2015 were passed by the 59th Parliament.

Amendments commenced on 1 March 2019 and will be phased in over 5 stages.

The Safe Patient Care (Nurse to Patient and Midwife to Patient Ratios) Act 2015 commenced on 23 December 2015.

In 2016 the Victorian Government established the Nurse/Midwife to Patient Ratio Improvements Taskforce to work with nurses, midwives and health services for the development of strategic policy advice on improvements to ratios.

Safe Patient Care Act 2015

The Safe Patient Care (Nurse to Patient and Midwife to Patient Ratios) Bill 2015 was introduced to Parliament on 1 September 2015 and the Safe Patient Care (Nurse to Patient and Midwife to Patient Ratios) Act 2015 (the Act) took effect from 23 December 2015.

This is landmark patient safety legislation for Australia and arguably the most comprehensive nursing and midwifery staffing Act anywhere in the world.

It delivered on the Government’s commitment to enshrine in law minimum numbers of nurses and midwives to care for patients.

The Government believes a strong nursing and midwifery workforce is crucial to delivering the best care for Victorians.

Nurse and midwife to patient ratios have assisted in maintaining the safety of Victorian patients since they were introduced in 2000, and contribute to better outcomes for Victorians.

Nurse and midwife to patient ratios are the key means of determining nurse and midwife staffing levels in Victoria, and were previously outlined in the Nurses and Midwives (Victorian Public Sector) (Single Interest Employers) Enterprise Agreement 2012–2016.

Services that are covered by the Enterprise Agreement are the only services that are impacted by the legislation.

Services not covered by the Enterprise Agreement, including private and not-for-profit hospitals, private and not-for-profit residential aged care services and private and not-for-profit day procedure centres, are not impacted by the legislation.

Amendments to the Safe Patient Care Act - more Nurses and Midwives to care for Victorians

On 19 December 2018, the Safe Patient Care (Nurse to Patient and Midwife to Patient Ratios) Amendment Bill 2018 was introduced into Parliament.

On 21 February 2019, the Amendment Bill successfully passed through the Legislative Council. Changes to the Act commenced on 1 March 2019 and changes to the Safe Patient Care (Nurse to Patient and Midwife to Patient Ratios) Regulations 2015 commenced on 6 March 2019.

Improvements to existing ratios, the creation of new ratios in a range of clinical settings and the introduction of other operational enhancements in the Act will all have a significant and lasting impact on the provision of safe and high- quality healthcare within Victorian public hospitals.

As a result of the improvements, an additional 600 nurses and midwives will be employed within areas such as general medical/surgical wards and also in specialist areas of palliative care, haematology, oncology, acute stroke, aged care, emergency and maternity services.

Further information is also available in the Improvements to Ratios FAQ and Guide to implementation. Available in the downloads section below