Results from a major study showing cutting hospital nurse numbers is linked to reduced patient safety also applies to community settings, according to the Queen’s Nursing Institute.
Every extra patient added to a hospital nurse’s workload increases the risk of death within a month of surgery by 7%, according to data from 300 European hospitals published in The Lancet last week.
It also showed that a 10% increase in the proportion of nurses holding a bachelor degree was associated with 7% lower surgical death rates.
“This underlies the need for properly qualified, experienced and skilled nurses”
Responding to the findings from the seminal RN4CAST study,the QNI said it welcomed the research, which it said “shows more clearly than ever before the relationship between staffing levels and educational attainment, and patient outcomes”.
Anne Pearson, practice development manager at the QNI, said: “While the research applies only to a hospital dataset, the general principles also apply to nursing in the community.
“More nurses available means that patients can be confident that they will receive timely, high quality, compassionate care,” she said. “As more complex care is delivered in the community setting too, this also underlies the need for properly qualified, experienced and skilled nurses to work there.”
However, she noted that recent workforce data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre continued to show a decline in the community workforce, compared with hospitals.
The data, published in December, showed a decline in overall NHS community nursing since 2009, falling from 48,108 in September 2009 to 45,943 in October 2013, a drop of 4.5%.
Ms Pearson said: “The fact that the number of community nurses, in particular district nurses, continues to fall according to the most recent figures, is therefore a cause for huge concern in light of this new study.”
The QNI is currently running a campaign called “Right Nurse, Right Skills”, arguing that the right number of nurses are needed, with the right skill mix, to deliver high quality patient care in the community.