Laws should be changed to limit the number of patients a nurse should care for in hospitals, according to a doctor in Greater Manchester.
And he added hospitals are running “false economies” if they choose to go with a low nurse-to-patient ratio.
Earlier this year, Dr Pena criticised patient safety at Tameside General Hospital. He told BBC’s Panorama programme that out of every 100 deaths at the hospital, one or two could be prevented by having a greater nurse-to-patient ratio.
He wants new legislation to be passed in England to dictate to hospitals how many patients a nurse or midwife can tend to. Wales and Scotland have different legal systems, he said.
The consultant said: “One problem in my hospital is that there’s no rule determining the minimum number of nurses. They don’t break any law and they get away with it.”
Dr Pena said Canada and Australia already had laws similar to the one he proposed.
California also has a quota on the number of patients a nurse should treat, he said, and several other states are considering the scheme.
He suggested that on surgical wards there should be a minimum of one qualified nurse for every six patients plus one auxiliary nurse, and on medical wards, one nurse for every seven patients, with an auxiliary.
The surgeon explained: “It is a false economy to have fewer qualified nurses.”