SPAIN has some of the most overworked nurses in Europe, which could be causing an increased rate of patient deaths after common surgical practices.

With an average 12.7 patients per nurse, Spain topped a study carried out at 300 European hospitals across nine countries by British medical journal The Lancet.

However, every nurse employed in Spain held a bachelor degree at the time of data collection in 2009-10, dwarfing Ireland’s 58%.

The research found that a higher number of and better educated nurses reduced the number of patient deaths.

In fact, data shows every extra patient added to a nurse’s workload increases the risk of death within a month of surgery by 7% and this is exacerbated by employing poorly qualified nurses.

A 10% increase in the proportion of nurses holding a bachelor degree was associated with 7% lower surgical death rates.

The research shows that potential cuts to nursing budgets may save money but may adversely affect patient outcomes.

England had nine patients per nurse, Ireland had 6.9, the Netherlands had seven and Norway had the lowest with 5.2.

Researchers compared nurse workload and education with patient outcomes, taking into account age, sex, available equipment and other factors which could influence the result.

It should be noted that the overall percentage of surgical patients who died within 30 days of admission was low, ranging between 1% and 1.5% per country.

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