MEDICAL research has identified a clear link between the number of nurses employed in a hospital and patient deaths after common surgical procedures in Ireland and other European countries.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) welcomed the publication in the Lancet Science Journal of a report that confirms the importance of adequate nurse-to-patient ratios.
The report, which was compiled in nine countries, involved more than 450,000 patients and, INMO says, provides further, scientific proof that proper nurse-to-patient ratios are "absolutely essential to the maintenance of safe care for patients and their return to full health".
It also found better education and staffing of nurses reduced patient deaths.
For every extra patient, a nurse's workload increases, as does the risk of death within a month of surgery by 7pc, according to the research.
Data obtained from 300 European hospitals in the nine countries shows Ireland had a patient-to-nurse ratio of 6.9 to one, Norway had 5.2, the Netherlands 7, Finland and Sweden 7.6 and England 9. Spain appeared to have the most overworked staff, with an average 12.7 patients per nurse.
The study, which included researchers from DCU, analysed nurse workload and education and patient outcomes, taking into account factors that could influence the result.
INMO pointed out that the findings refer to 2009/2010, prior to the loss of more than 5,000 nursing posts.
"There must be immediate actions taken to create and maintain proper safe nurse-to-patient ratios in all areas of our health service," said INMO general secretary Liam Doran.
"This major report confirms that patients benefit from the existence of adequate ratios. The Government must act now."
Researchers compared nurse workload and education and patient outcomes, taking into account factors that could influence the result.
These included the age of patients, types of surgical procedure and chronic conditions.
The overall percentage of surgical patients who died within 30 days of admission was 1pc to 1.5pc per country.