A European-wide study has found that nurse education, and patient to nursing staff ratios, may impact on patient outcomes.
The study was funded by the European Union, the National Institute of Nursing Research and the National Institutes of Health in the US.
Researchers across nine European countries (including involvement from the University of Southampton and the University of London) obtained data on 422,730 patients from administrative sources at 300 hospitals.
This study has been reported in the midst of many European countries tighten their budgets, one obvious opportunity to save costs is to trim nursing staff levels.
However, it seems that this could be having a negative impact on patient safety.
Researchers found that an increase in a nurse’s workload by one patient was associated with a 7% increase in patient deaths. In addition, a better educated workforce was associated with fewer deaths, with every 10% increase in nurses with degrees associated with a 7% reduction in death rates.
Norway had the lowest ratio, with 5.2 nurses per person and Spain had the highest, with 12.7 patients per person. England was measured at 8.8 patients per nurse.
A final reassuring note is that in the UK, as of last year, all new entrants to nursing have to be educated to degree-level standards.
Though not surprisingly, the study was linked to concerns over staffing levels in the NHS. The Department of Health replied to criticism by highlighting that “nurse numbers are at their highest level ever since the NHS was founded in 1948.”
This news has already had a positive effect on the NHS, with all new nurses in England being educated to degree level, highlighting the point that when recruiting staff they need to be found to be at a very high level, thus reinforcing the need for an intensive recruiting process.
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