The public services union Unison is to challenge the Scottish Government to implement minimum staff-to-patient ratios – a key recommendation from the Francis report into deaths at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust.

The union, which represents health care workers, said that while the issue was identified in a report on the NHS in England, the same issues apply north of the Border, and the Scottish Government has agreed to consider the issues raised in the Francis report.

Minimum staff-to-patient ratios could dramatically change life on the wards for patients and staff, providing a safer, more caring environment for everyone, Unison claims.

It said a new survey of more than 1500 nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants, carried out by the union, including staff in Scotland, had found that 45% of respondents were looking after eight or more patients on their shift.

Unison says some research has found that looking after this number increases the risk of patient harm.

The survey was carried out on March 5 to provide a snapshot of a typical day in the NHS.

Almost one in five respondents claimed care failings in their organisations were on a par with those identified at the Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust.

Christina McAnea, Unison head of health, said: "This survey exposes a health service under severe strain. On this typical day many staff worked through their break and stayed after their shift – but this still did not give them enough time to complete all their tasks.

"The hidden voice in the survey must surely be that of the patient who is not getting the level of care they are entitled to expect.

"Government cuts are making matters worse by reducing staff, including nurses, at a time when patient demand is growing.

"Introducing minimum nurse-to-patient ratios would provide a safety net of care, restore public confidence and show nursing staff they are respected and valued."

The survey also found that almost two-thirds of staff said they did not have enough time with each patient, while nearly 60% said they did not have enough time to deliver safe, dignified and compassionate patient care.

Time constraints were blamed by respondents for patients not receiving the care that workers felt they should have been entitled to, with pressures restricting their ability to reassure patients over their fears, or explain diagnoses and treatments.

In the worst cases, staff said they had been unable to take patients to the toilet, provide food or drink, or write up full and accurate records – some of the key problems identified in Staffordshire. Some said they were unable to find enough time to spend with dying patients.

Overall, 85.4% said they believed that national minimum nurse-to-patient ratios should be set.

Unison Scotland is planning to provide further analysis of views from Scottish staff in the survey. But lead organiser for health Willie Duffy said the issues in Scottish hospitals and other healthcare settings were similar. "Workers here are also worried about having enough time to spend with each patient and think that understaffing compromises their ability to deliver the care they would like to give," he said.

"We would like to see minimum staffing levels. There have been a reduction in nursing numbers and staff shortages across the UK, including Scotland.

"We had some discussion with the Scottish Government and employers about similar issues last year and would expect that to continue."