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Higher weekend mortality is not down to Saturday night drunks

3 February 2012

5:40 PM

3 February 2012

5:40 PM

You’re more likely to die if admitted to hospital during the weekend. It’s a shocking
truth, and one that’s explored further in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine today. Last year, as Pete blogged at the time, the 2011 Dr Foster Hospital Guide discovered that emergency patients are 10 per cent more likely to die if admitted at the weekend. Today’s report goes further than that, and finds that patients are 16 per cent more likely to die if admitted on a Sunday as opposed to a weekday — for all admissions, not just emergency.

It’s a finding that undermines the idea that the increased mortality rate can be put down to more drunks staggering into A&E at the weekend. In fact, if you compare those 10 and 16 per cent figures, it suggests that emergency wards actually perform less badly than other wards at weekends.

So what’s to blame? Today’s report reaches a similar conclusion to Dr Foster: that fluctuating staff levels are the major cause, particularly with consultants and senior staff being only ‘on call’ at weekends. The JRSM also suggests that limited access to diagnostics and a reluctance among patients to admit themselves during the week are contributing to the trend. In any case, this is a scandal that needs addressing — and fast.


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