NURSES with degrees can reduce the number of hospital deaths, a Southampton study has revealed.

Research has found that hospital nurse staffing and the number of nurses with degrees all have a significant impact on the number of patient deaths after routine surgery.

A team of researchers, including lead investigator Professor Peter Griffiths, from the University of Southampton, discovered that a better-educated nursing workforce slashed unnecessary deaths.

The study concluded that failing to invest in degree education for nurses, alongside attempts to cut costs by reducing nurse staffing may put patients at greater risk of dying.

For every ten per cent increase in the number of bachelor’s degree educated nurses within a hospital, there was a seven per cent decline in patient mortality.

The study also shows that, in hospitals in England, an average only of 28 per cent of bedside care nurses had bachelor’s degrees, which is amongst the lowest in Europe, which averaged 45 per cent.

It found that increasing the production of graduate nurses is necessary if the NHS is to realise the potential of lower patient mortality and fewer adverse patient outcomes.

Professor Peter Griffiths, chair of Health Services Research at the university, said: “The study highlights two very important issues.

“One is that the number of trained nurses on hospital wards is a crucially important factor in ensuring that patients are safe; it makes it absolutely clear that low staffing levels are dangerous.

“The other issue that is highlighted is nurse education. There has been a massive backlash against educating nurses to degree level.

“These findings from nine European countries shows that hospitals, which employ more degree qualified nurses, have a lower rate of mortality compared to hospitals with fewer degree qualified nurses.”