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Nurse staffing levels linked to patient satisfaction

The number of nurses on a ward is strongly linked to how favourably patients viewed their hospital care, a new study published in BMJ Open has found.

The study, led by researchers from King’s, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Southampton, was based on the NHS Inpatient Survey of more 66,000 patients. Researchers found that it was insufficient numbers, rather than uncaring staff that contributed to patient dissatisfaction.

Only 60 per cent of the 66,348 patients responding to the NHS survey reported that there were usually enough nurses available to provide their care. Just 14 per cent of patients rated their care as excellent when they also said there was never or rarely enough nurses on the hospital ward, compared to 57 per cent who said there were usually enough nurses.

Improving nurse staffing in NHS hospitals holds promise for improving patient satisfaction– Professor Anne Marie Rafferty, Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing, Midwifery & Palliative Care.

Lower workloads were also associated with better working environments, however nurses in England have amongst the highest workloads and burnout rates in Europe. Not having enough nurses has a detrimental impact on patients as care is rationed.

Nurses reported feeling that they didn’t always have the time to provide the necessary care, with the care most commonly missed including comforting patients and teaching them how to manage care after discharge.

‘Patient perception is an important barometer of quality of care and confidence in the NHS. The widening gap between demand and capacity is reflected in missed care, which in turn is associated with poor nurse staffing and poor hospital environments’ Professor Anne Marie Rafferty adds.

Listen to Professor Anne Marie Rafferty discussing the challenges facing nurses in the NHS here: