Patients become less satisfied with the care provided in hospitals if they believe there are not enough nurses on the ward, according to a new study.
Researchers from the University of Southampton found that only 14% of patients who reported there was never or rarely enough nurses on the hospital ward rated their care as excellent, while 57% of patients who reported there were usually enough nurses rated their care as excellent.
Based on the NHS Inpatient Survey and published in the BMJ Open, the study also showed that 60% of the 66,348 patients responding to the NHS survey reported that there were usually enough nurses available to provide their care.
And one in 10 patients questioned said there were never or rarely enough professional nurses during their hospital stay.
The study team, which included researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and King's College London, said their findings show that it is the availability of qualified registered nurses in hospitals that affects patient satisfaction most.
Professor Peter Griffiths, from the University of Southampton, said: "The variation in nurse staffing levels between different NHS hospitals is huge. When there aren't enough professional nurses, things get missed, patients notice, and this affects their confidence in the quality of the hospital and the care they receive.
"England has one of the lowest percentages among European countries of professional nurses at the bedside already. We know that 65% of nurses in hospitals in England say that high workloads prevent them from spending enough time comforting patients, while 52% of nurses say they don't have enough time to teach patients and their families how to manage after hospital.
"But having more staff on the wards, who have limited qualifications is not enough - the NHS needs to focus on achieving safe registered nurse staffing levels as a means to achieve better outcomes, including improving patients' satisfaction with their care."
Study author Linda Aiken, of the University of Pennsylvania, said: "The often repeated narrative suggesting that quality deficits in hospitals are due to 'uncaring' nurses is not supported by evidence from the NHS's own survey.
"Patients value nurses so much that when nurses are in short supply, patients' overall ratings of their hospitals decline sharply."
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