Ratios get a big tick

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Nurses and midwives in NSW believe staff-patient ratios have had a positive impact on the health system and are delivering better patient care, according to a comprehensive survey of NSWNMA members. They clearly recognise the value of ratios, but there is widespread concern that they are vulnerable to political interference.

With less than eight months till the expiry of the current Public Health System Award, the NSWNMA has undertaken a comprehensive survey of members to gauge attitudes about the health system. The survey also marks an initial step to 
formulating the log of claims for the next pay and conditions campaign.

The research found a relatively high level of satisfaction with the outcomes of the last pay and conditions campaign. There was a very high appreciation of the worth of ratios for safe patient care and recognition that their expansion would be beneficial to nurses and midwives.

However, there is some pessimism about the possibilities of improving ratios and recognition that achieving positive outcomes from the next campaign could be much more difficult than the last.

The survey was completed by thousands of NSWNMA members.

Eighty-one percent of respondents saw ratios as “very important” to patient care. Another 15 percent saw them as “quite important”.

Sixty-seven percent of respondents believe there has been a positive impact as a result of ratios/nursing hours. This feeling was particularly strong among young nurses. Eighty percent of nurses and midwives under 25 years of age thought ratios had a positive impact.

While nurses and midwives clearly like ratios, they also feel they are not secure. Sixty-four percent of respondents thought ratios were insecure (22 percent very insecure and 42 percent insecure). Thirty percent said they weren’t sure how secure they were. The number of optimists who thought the government would keep ratios as they are or would expand them was a mere four percent.

A strong majority of nurses and midwives  – 71 percent – believe the extra numbers of nurses coming into the public health system are a result of pressure exerted through the NSWNMA’s ratios campaign. Eighteen percent believed they were a result of a Labor government decision. Only four percent thought they were a product of an
 O’Farrell Government decision.

NSWNMA General Secretary Brett Holmes says the survey shows that those at the frontline of the public health system believe that ratios/nursing hours deliver safer patient care.

“Our members are looking to the Government to maintain the ratios system and go one step further – expand it into specialty areas that did not benefit in the last two years and increase the nursing hours in regional and rural hospitals.

“What our members say about ratios is consistent with the increasing international research from nurse academics and health economists. Their studies show that higher nursing hours deliver lower rates of hospital-acquired infection, falls and cardiac-related mortality. The productivity and societal benefits of higher nursing hours are enormous.

“This Government has a mandate to deliver for regional NSW and improving ratios would be a clear demonstration that it wants to deliver high quality healthcare for the whole state, not just metropolitan areas.”

Reprinted from the November issue of The Lamp.

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