The government plans to tackle NHS understaffing by putting thousands of “nursing assistants” on to wards, however, new research found deploying them could raise patients’ risk of dying. The journal BMJ Quality and Safety, found that replacing one fully qualified nurse with a nursing assistant on a ward of 25 patients increased the risk of a patient dying by 21%. The findings were based on research in adult acute care hospitals in six European countries, including England and the Republic of Ireland.
The research, led by Dr Linda Aiken of Pennsylvania University’s school of nursing, concludes:
“Reducing nursing skill mix by adding nursing associates and other categories of assistive nursing personnel without professional nurse qualifications may contribute to preventable deaths, erode quality and safety of hospital care and contribute to hospital nurse shortages.”
The Royal College of Nursing warned that relying increasingly on nursing assistants to look after patients was misguided, dangerous and potentially “catastrophic”.
It said “Substituting registered nurses with support staff quite simply puts patient care and patients’ lives at risk.” nurses are educated to degree level and have a wide range of experience in clinical settings means they can spot if a patient’s health is deteriorating or they are having serious complications, allowing them to make and act on decisions in complex and unpredictable circumstances, the RCN’s chief executive and general secretary, Janet Davies, said.