A shortage of doctors and nurses may cause around 28,000 preventable deaths a year, according to a recent study by the University.

The research, carried out by University’s Health Services Research unit in unison with Imperial College London, showed that a shortage of nurses on hospital wards may lead to thousands dying from treatable illnesses, such as blood clots and pneumonia.

It is therefore reasonable to conclude that a lack of appropriate care is a contributing factor to many deaths from treatable complications on hospital wards.

Peter Griffiths
Chair of Health Services Research

The paper, which was published in the International Journal of Nursing Studies, used records of over 70 million surgical patients and focused on the the idea of ‘failure to rescue” – those patients who had undergone surgery, but who had died from potentially treatable complications.

It revealed that patients were 8% more likely to die in hospitals with fewer nurses and 9% more likely to die in hospitals with fewer doctors, leading to an estimated 28,000 preventable deaths a year.

Peter Griffiths, Chair of Health Services Research, said that the study has made it clear that “having more nurses on wards is associated with lower rates of ‘failure to rescue’.”

He continued on to say that the paper, funded by the Department of Health’s Policy Research, also indicated that “having a higher proportion of doctors compared to nurses in the workforce seems to be even more important.

The study is in agreement to other recent studies, which have shown that several hospitals around the country have consistently high death-rates due to staff shortages.

There are 7,000 fewer nurses in UK hospitals than two years ago. A Health Department spokeswoman has stated that the government will be spending an extra £12.5 billion into the Health Service by 2015 to help achieve lowering this morality rate.

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