Hospital patients are more likely to die if they are admitted to hospital over the weekend rather than on a weekday, figures have shown.
A reliance on junior doctors coupled with a lack of specialist services over the weekend period are two reasons that are being cited explaining why the death rate at hospitals across England increased by 7% at weekends over the 2005-06 period, research from the Dr Foster Unit and the Department of Acute Medicine at Imperial College London found.
The 7% rise equates to 3,369 more deaths than would have been expected during weekday hours, the study found.
The findings add further weight to a separate report published recently which found that the NHS was “too reliant” on junior doctors who are often left to work unsupervised on wards overnight and at weekends.
The report also criticised the working hours of senior consultants who often prefer to work a standard week which inevitably impacts on patient treatment and junior staff training.
Study author Sir John Temple said that the need for junior doctors to ‘fill gaps’ in rotas meant that they did not have enough time with senior staff for training, resulting in inexperienced staff working without sufficient training during unsocial hours.