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09.05.16

Weekend death rate actually lower than weekdays, research suggests

Fewer patients die in hospitals during weekends than weekdays, according to new analysis, casting doubt on the government’s claims that a seven-day NHS must be introduced to improve mortality rates.

The research, from the University of Manchester’s Centre for Health Economics, found that the belief that death rates are higher at weekends may reflect the fact that fewer patients are admitted.

It comes as the government is due to re-enter talks with junior doctors, who have been staging strikes over a new contract designed to extend weekend working hours.

Professor Matt Sutton, who led the research, said: “The figures comparing death rates at weekends and weekdays are skewed. The NHS has rushed to fix a perceived problem that further research shows does not exist.”

Unlike previous studies, the University of Manchester report is based on admissions to A&E instead of to hospital.

It found that between April 2013 and February 2014, hospitals admitted 7% fewer patients at the weekend.

Professor Sutton said that hospitals operate a higher safety threshold at weekends and only admit patients with more serious illnesses, meaning they are more likely to die regardless of the quality of care.

His colleague Rachel Meacock, lead author of the study, said: “The so-called ‘weekend effect’ is a statistical artefact and extending services will not reduce the number of deaths.”

She warned that the only effect of the seven-day NHS would be to lead to more patients with less severe illness being admitted at weekends, increasing financial pressures on the health service.

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Comments

Dr. Koshy   09/05/2016 at 13:21

Brilliant. Many of us always had this view and I am pleased that it has appeared from authors who have worked on it and have the credentials to back it. Mr. Hunt and Mr. Cameron, your comments on this please. You were ready to take up cudgels against the medical profession on the basis of one statistically skewed document. Does humble pie taste good ? Or better, Lick the egg off your face.

Mr Guyatt   09/05/2016 at 14:08

What about those people who died out of hospital because they or their families were discouraged from being admitted?

Jo   09/05/2016 at 18:18

If this study is correct, I dont see why the money being spent on the so called '7 day NHS' is not diverted to community NHS services and social services where hospital admissions are PREVENTED.

Evangeline   11/05/2016 at 11:46

First I want to say I am fully in support of the action and plight of Junior doctors. I believe that this government has no goodwill towards the NHS and is trying to dismantle it by whatever means. I wondered if the minister's plan for a so called 7 day NHS (which we already have) implicates outpatient services which generally only operate Monday to Friday? Would this then be to try to prove that their policies are more effective because they are getting more people seen and waiting lists down. This would totally skew statistics and would have little impact upon people requiring emergency care. The public and NHS hospitals would be better served if they focussed changing the way that GPs operate and getting them to provide a more robust and comprehensive 7 day service, enabling them to spread the load and avoiding unecessary visits to A+E for non urgent, minor issues.

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