Research published in medical journal The Lancet has found unequivocal evidence that the implementation of nurse-to-patient ratios legislation in Queensland has saved both lives and money.
The independent research, conducted by a team led by Dr Matthew McHugh from the School of Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania, has found that having a safe nurse-to-patient ratios policy in place improved patient outcomes – specifically patient mortality rates, 7-day readmissions and lengths of stay. These outcomes resulted in cost savings that were more than twice the cost of the additional nurse staffing required by the ratios policy.
The researchers compared patient data between 2016 and 2018 between 27 hospitals that were subject to the nurse-to-patient ratios policy against 28 hospitals that were not. The research focused on 30-day mortality, 7-day readmissions and lengths of stay (LOS) of patients admitted to medical-surgical wards in these hospitals.
Almost 500,000 patient data points from Queensland Hospital Admitted Patient Data and linked death records were analysed for the team’s research.
The authors lauded the research findings as proof that nurse-to-patient ratios “are a feasible approach” to improving staffing levels, patient outcomes and hospital bottom lines.
“Opponents [of nurse-to-patient ratios] argued that the evidence for ratios is insufficient. Likewise, [they] argues that little information existed about the return on investment from the additional nurses required as a result of a ratios mandate,” the authors noted. “Our findings fill these gaps”.
“The results presented here suggest that minimum nurse-to-patient ratios policies… improve nurse staffing, produce better patient outcomes, and yield a good return on investment”.