The patient-to-nurse ratio in England is significantly higher compared to other countries, new research has revealed, after a major study suggested nursing cutbacks are directly linked to higher patient death rates in hospital.
Norway had a ratio of 5.2 to one, the Irish Republic 6.9, the Netherlands seven and Finland and Sweden 7.6.
Spain appeared to have the most overworked staff, with an average 12.7 patients per nurse but every nurse in the country is required to have a a bachelor degree.
A 10 per cent increase in the proportion of nurses holding a bachelor degree was associated with 7 per cent lower surgical death rates.
The number of patients cared for by each nurse in the UK is "worrying" and "can compromise patient safety," according to experts.
Chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, Peter Carter, expressed concern over findings which showed nurses were expected to care for nine different patients on a daily basis.
It is worrying to see that researchers found the mean ratio of patients to nurses in England is above eight, as we know that this can compromise patient safety.
The RCN has also expressed concern at the skills mix in UK hospitals as trusts get rid of more senior nurses to save money, meaning there is far less experience on many wards, and the full extent of this will be revealed in our upcoming Frontline First report.
Nurses working in Spain are the most overworked in Europe, according to researchers.
However, patients have a higher chance of survival after surgery because more Spanish nurses have an undergraduate degree.
Staff in English hospitals look after nine patients on average - one more than professional bodies would like.
According to research published in the Lancet journal:
- Spanish nurses look after an average of 12.7 patients every day.
- Norway has a ratio of five patients to every nurse.
- Ireland every seven patients will be cared for by one nurse.
- The Netherlands, Finland and Sweden all had roughly seven nurses to every patient.
A patients' risk of death of after surgery rises by 7% if there are not enough properly trained nurses working on their ward, according to research.
The survey, published in the Lancet journal, looked at nine European countries and revealed how the extra workload created by cutbacks was also exacerbated by a lack of properly trained staff.
Nurses with university degrees had helped compensate for reduced staff numbers, but researchers found most UK nurses were juggling nine patients per day since cutbacks began.
However, researchers found a 10% increase in the proportion of nurses holding a bachelor degree was associated with 7% lower surgical death rates.
US expert Professor Linda Aiken, who led the research, said: "Our findings emphasise the risk to patients that could emerge in response to nurse staffing cuts under recent austerity measures, and suggest that an increased emphasis on bachelor's education for nurses could reduce hospital deaths."
Hundreds of hospitals do not have enough nurses to care for patients properly, according to analysis of staffing levels by The Times.
Research found that 43 per cent of NHS wards have only one nurse for every eight patients, a figure flagged up in the "red zone" of a recent government safety report.
Experts have also warned that elderly care statistics showing on average more than 9.1 patients per nurse, could compromise care.
Today, MPs called for the number of nurses on duty in every English hospital ward should be collected daily and published to help prevent a repeat of the Stafford hospital scandal.
Hospitals themselves must decide how many and which staff they employ. But we have been absolutely clear that these decisions must be based on providing the best patient care and hospitals should publish details and evidence to show that staffing numbers are right for the care needs of the patients that they look after.
The new chief inspector of hospitals will be able to take action if hospitals are found to be compromising patient care by not having the right number of staff on wards.
We are also working with the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, the Care Quality Commission and NHS England to develop better tools to help hospitals decide their staffing numbers.
Cutting nursing posts to save money is a false economy, leading to poor care and creating more strain on the system, the general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing said today, after a report found that nurses were having to "ration care" due to time pressures.
Dr Peter Carter said:
These are depressing findings and unfortunately not surprising.
When nurses are overloaded with tasks, and have extremely limited time to complete them, something has to give. Without enough staff on the ground it's vital care such as having the time to talk with, and reassure, patients that suffers.
We need to prevent poor care by making sure wards are well staffed, not just use poor care as an early warning sign. We urge all employers to make use of this research.
A new report suggesting that nurses are having to "ration care" towards their patients due to time pressures has been welcomed by the head of nursing at the union Unison.
Gail Adams said: "This report adds to the growing evidence that there is safety in numbers when it comes to caring for patients.
"Earlier this year Unison's own survey of nurses and healthcare assistants found that nearly 60% did not have enough time to deliver safe, dignified and compassionate patient care.
"The introduction of minimum staff to patient ratios would be a life-saving initiative - one that would dramatically change life on the wards for patients and staff, providing a safer, more caring environment for all."
There is a strong relationship between registered nurses staffing levels and the prevalence of care being left undone, authors from the Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery and the University of Southampton said today after a new report suggested nurses wee having to "ration care".
The authors added:
Most nurses working on general medical and surgical wards in this representative sample reported that some care was left undone on their last shift.
Registered nurses (RNs) working in English NHS hospitals report that care is needed but is often not done because of insufficient time. [The] better the practice environment the smaller the volume of care that is left undone.
Our findings raise difficult questions for hospitals in a climate where many are looking to reduce - not increase - their expenditure on nurse staffing.
More than 80% of nurses are being forced to "ration care" because they don't have enough time to properly look after patients, a new study suggests.
The authors from the Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery and the University of Southampton, found:
- 86% of nurses were unable to perform at least one of 13 care elements because they were too busy
- 66% of nurses unable to comfort or talk to patients
- Just over half of nurses saying they were forced to skip "educating patients"
- 47% said they didn't have time to develop or update nursing care plans
- The average nurse cared for 7.8 patients on a day shift
- The average nurse cared for 10.9 patients on a night shift
- Nurses looking after 11 or more patients were twice as likely to say they rationed patient monitoring as those looking after six or fewer patients
- 78% of nurses in the best staffed environments reported some care was missed on their last shift, compared with 90% of those with lower staffing levels