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Nurse staffing levels are the ‘surprise’ key to stroke survival, finds study

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The ratio of trained nurses to patients is a key factor in whether or not people survive in the immediate aftermath of a stroke, according to a new UK study.

Researchers found having the optimal number of nurses available to care for patients in an acute stroke unit was the best predictor of survival – after other factors like age, blood pressure and the severity of the attack were taken into account.

“This proved to be a very clear and consistent predictor of stroke survival”

Phyo Myint

Just one additional trained nurse per 10 beds could reduce the chance of death after 30 days by up to 28%, according to the study. Meanwhile, the chance of death a year after someone had a stroke was cut by 12%.

The study, by the University of Aberdeen and the University of East Anglia, was based on data from eight hospitals in the East of England concerning nearly 2,400 acute stroke patients.

The researchers examined a range of factors, including consultant numbers, hospital type and support on offer post discharge, and recorded survival rates at seven days, 30 days and one year.

At each point, the ratio of nurses to patients could be used to predict whether or not the patient survived.

“It once more highlights the vital difference specialist nurses can make”

Amanda Cheesley

Lead author Phyo Myint, professor of old age medicine at Aberdeen University, admitted he was surprised by the findings, which are published in the journal Age and Ageing.

“We might expect more obvious aspects of healthcare to have a greater impact on survival, such as having a team to support early hospital discharge or the proportion of acute and rehab beds on the unit,” he said.

“Instead we found that, when controlling for other variables, an increasing nurse to patient ratio has a substantial effect on reducing likelihood of death after stroke,” he said. “This proved to be a very clear and consistent predictor of stroke survival.”

Royal College of Nursing

Nurse-patient ratio found to be key to stroke survival

Amanda Cheesley

He worked with colleagues from Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, Anglia Stroke and Heart Clinical Network and Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge to carry out the research, which was funded by the National Institute for Health Research’ Research for Patient Benefit programme.

Amanda Cheesley, professional lead for long-term conditions and end of life care at the Royal College of Nursing, said the study echoed other findings showing a clear link between the number of registered nurses and patient safety.

“It once more highlights the vital difference specialist nurses can make,” she said. “Too often senior and specialist nursing posts have been cut to save money, but their expertise and experience has a measurable positive impact.”

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Readers' comments (1)

  • What is really good about this study is that they were not expecting to get this result. So they had no preconcieved ideas. This gives further support to the need for more RNs and makes the current policies on developing Nursing Associates rather than more qualifeid nurse deviate even further from the evidence. I

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