Nursing cutbacks have been found to be directly linked to higher death rates in hospitals, according to research.
A new European study says every extra patient added to a nurse's workload increases the number of deaths within a month of surgery by 7%.
The study - entitled' Nurse staffing and education and hospital mortality in nine European countries: a retrospective observational study' - also showed that for every 10% jump in nurses with bachelor's degrees there is a 7% drop in deaths.
"These associations imply that patients in hospitals in which 60% of nurses had bachelor's degrees and nurses cared for an average of six patients would have almost 30% lower mortality than patients in hospitals in which only 30% of nurses had bachelor's degrees and nurses cared for an average of eight patients," the study's authors said.
"Nurse staffing cuts to save money might adversely affect patient outcomes," the study concluded, adding: "An increased emphasis on bachelor's education for nurses could reduce preventable hospital deaths."
The study analysed information on more than 420,000 patients admitted to hospitals in Belgium, England, Finland, the Irish Republic, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.
The findings have been published in The Lancet journal.
DCU professor Anne Scott, who led the Irish part of the study, said a significant number of nurses don't have that standard of education.
"There are obviously a large number of nurses in the system who either qualified pre-2006, or indeed Irish nurses who qualified elsewhere and have maybe come back, who would not have degree-level education," Professor Scott said.
"And what this study is pointing out is the assocation between degree-level education or higher, and better patient outcome."