An extra 11,000 patients die in England every year because they are admitted to hospital at the weekend.

The study, by University Hospital Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust and University College London, was published recently in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

It examined 15 million admissions across NHS England hospitals between 2013 and 2014, investigating the correlation between the day of hospital admission and mortality rates.

Overall, the research found that the mortality rates were:

  • 1.6% on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday
  • 1.75% on Friday
  • 2.64% on Saturday
  • 3.4% on Sunday
  • 1.7% on Monday

This means that there are 15% more deaths on a Sunday and 10% more on a Saturday. This amounts to 11,000 extra deaths between Friday and Monday.

These figures are significantly different from those cited by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt in July, who said there are 6,000 extra weekend deaths per year.

“Beyond what any of us can regard as acceptable”

Reduced staffing levels and limited access to backup services are being blamed for the so-called ‘weekend effect’.

Clare Marx, president of the Royal College of Surgeons, said: “Patients who need treating at the weekend are less likely to be seen by the right mix of junior and senior staff, and experience reduced access to diagnostics.”

“Many doctors and NHS staff already work at night and weekends, and they should be valued and thanked for continuing to provide care during those unsocial hours. However, the evidence shows this is not currently standard practice, even in high-risk emergency care. This has to change.”

The news comes after it was revealed last week that heart attack patients are more likely to die when admitted at the weekend.

Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, NHS medical director, said the situation was not acceptable.

“The idea that patients are being harmed because of the way we organise our services is quite simply beyond what any of us can regard as acceptable. The moral and social case for action is simply unassailable”, he said.

“Change always brings practical difficulties that must be tackled but we cannot duck the facts. It is my job here to point out the inconvenient truth.”

Unacceptable hospital care

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