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Hospital deaths 'rise at weekend'


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.


Readers' comments (20)

  • I would also suggest that junior nurses are allocated to weekend working with little senior support-(most ward sisters also working monday to friday due to budget constraints)
    Junior staff may not always detect changes in patients conditions or feel confident enough to press junior doctors to attend more poorly patients who need reviewing.

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  • I agree with the above comments. Also, it has always amazed me that other services shut down for the weekend e.g. Imaging, pharmacy, physio etc. Patients need to be cared for 24 hours a day. Every day. Do management think people are not so ill at weekends or on bank holidays? This article doesn`t tell me anything I didn`t already know!

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  • What value/relevance is there in a report that talks about the period 4-5 years ago? How much have things changed since then, with all the government targets and cost-savings? Is the situation better or worse in 2010? I guess we'll have to wait another 4-5 years to find out.

    What we actually need is figures covering the last financial year. Otherwise, all these figures give us is a trend when compared with other years. We cannot use them to examine existing practices to improve services.

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  • Trish, I'm afraid it is our day to day working lives that tell us this report is pretty accurate.

    Anonymous | 14-Jun-2010 12:47 pm hit the nail on the head. Why the hell do other services, Pharmacy, Physio, Doctors even to a huge extent, all just shut down of nights and a weekend?

    Are Nurses the only ones in the MDT to give 24 hour care?

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    I really can not believe that this is going on

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  • Actually this may be due to the fact that patients are transferred over a weekend and the fact that TTA's are not obtained satisfactorily or prescribed properly to appropriate settings. This may need to be considered when transferring patients to community settings.

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  • its disgusting in this day and age that hospital staff and services do not run on 7 day service why on earth do theatres close on friday afternoon untill monday except for emergencys and then some are delayed until monday
    senior drs and consultants only returning to wards late in the evening to find out what is happening to patients from junior inexperienced drs
    skeleton physio and ot at weekends time to finish this victorian practice
    the public and us deserve better we all contribute to those very high wages time the consultants earned there money like the rest of us

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  • It really is about time that the NHS truly became a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week service. All nurses are aware of the nightmare job of getting patients reviewed with a proper management and care plan when they are admitted on a friday evening - this is of course even worse over the dreaded holiday weekends when patients are essentially 'babysat' for days with no senior review. As always I am amazed that research is needed for what seems so obvious an issue.

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  • Im a staff nurse and I work long days sat and sun every week for childcare reasons.I know from my shifts week in week out that this article is spot on.
    Routine things like bloods, cannulas are managed well by nursing staff, but often acutely ill patients who may be difficult to bleed have to wait for the on call HO to come...this weekend he arrived at 19.30 we had a list as long as your arm for him, he was mentally and physically exhausted....dangerous.I think in my trust nurses are wise enough to leave not so urgent things till review on monday, but still there are enough things that have to be done...prescribing warfarin,gentamicin, as well as reviewing the compromised patients.we have a folder system for this, green for SHO orange for REG, that is meant to make sure that the illest patients have senior r/v, trouble is that there are too many of them for one sho and one reg.
    Ive been a nurse for 14 years but to tell you the truth if I could I would get out of the hospital setting as its just firefighting every step of the way.

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  • I am not at all surprised by this at all. Staff cover over weekends is diabolical. Getting the poor oncall Dr to attend to a patient when they are trying to look after 300+ is unrealistic, coupled with the lack of senior nursing staff and ahp`s, makes hospitals a dangerous place to be over a weekend.

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