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Objective To estimate the effect of the provision of a one-to-one nurse-to-patient ratio on mortality rates in neonatal intensive care units. Design A population-based analysis of operational clinical data using an instrumental variable method. Setting National Health Service neonatal units in England contributing data to the National Neonatal Research Database at the Neonatal Data Analysis Unit and participating in the Neonatal Economic, Staffing, and Clinical Outcomes Project. Participants 43 tertiary-level neonatal units observed monthly over the period January 2008 to December 2012. Intervention Proportion of neonatal intensive care days or proportion of intensive care admissions for which one-to-one nursing was provided. Outcomes Monthly in-hospital intensive care mortality rate. Results Over the study period, the provision of one-to-one nursing in tertiary neonatal units declined from a median of 9.1% of intensive care days in 2008 to 5.9% in 2012. A 10 percentage point decrease in the proportion of intensive care days on which one-to-one nursing was provided was associated with an increase in the in-hospital mortality rate of 0.6 (95% CI 1.2 to 0.0) deaths per 100 infants receiving neonatal intensive care per month compared with a median monthly mortality rate of 4.5 deaths per 100 infants per month. The results remained robust to sensitivity analyses that varied the estimation sample of units, the choice of instrumental variables, unit classification and the selection of control variables. Conclusions Our study suggests that decreases in the provision of one-to-one nursing in tertiary-level neonatal intensive care units increase the in-hospital mortality rate.

Original publication




Journal article


Archives of Disease in Childhood-Fetal and Neonatal Edition

Publication Date





F195 - F200


nursing neonatal intensive care unit nurse to patient ratio mortality risk-adjusted outcomes premature-infants workload volume units impact