Thousands of patients are dying in hospitals each year because there are not enough doctors or nurses, research shows.
Patients are almost 10 per cent more likely to die if there are fewer medically-trained staff on wards, the study found.Researchers believe patients in overstretched hospitals are prone to developing fatal complications and infections because they are not properly monitored.Already there is widespread concern that the quality of NHS care is deteriorating because there are too few nurses to carry out basic tasks.
Researchers from the University of Southampton and Imperial College London looked at the records of almost 70million patients who had surgery between 1997 and 2009.They calculated how many had later died of complications including pneumonia, bladder infections or blood clots.Such conditions can normally be treated if detected early but if patients are not properly monitored they will die.By calculating how many patients died of these conditions, researchers could get a rough idea of the quality of care. They found that across the NHS every year around 28,000 patients died as a result of complications which potentially could have been cured.
The study, published in the International Journal of Nursing Research, also looked at data on the numbers of doctors and nurses on all wards.It found that patients were 9 per cent more likely to die if there were fewer doctors than average, and 8 per cent more likely to die if there were fewer nurses.Researchers also calculated that patients on wards where there were more untrained workers such as healthcare assistants were 10 per cent more likely to die.Lead researcher Professor Peter Griffiths said some very frail patients would have died regardless of the standard of treatment but a high proportion of the deaths were probably due to poor care.
‘The suspicion is that poor care is a very plausible explanation in a lot of these cases,’ he said.‘If a hospital responds with the best possible care, the consequences of that complication should be less. If you do not have enough staff, they cannot provide good care.’Many hospitals have been axing nursing posts or imposing recruitment freezes since 2005 and 2006, having racked up huge debts. The cuts have worsened since the financial crisis.Official figures show 5,964 nursing posts have been axed in the past two years. Although the number of doctors has increased over that period, there is concern that some departments remain understaffed. – DailyMail