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Heart studies give backing to NHS ‘weekend effect’


Two large studies involving patients with two different types of heart condition suggest a higher mortality risk for those admitted at weekends.

Patients with atrial fibrillation admitted to hospital over the weekend face a higher risk of dying over the next five years than those admitted during normal hours, found one study by Aston University.

Involving 42,687 patients with atrial fibrillation, it found those admitted during out-of-hours periods have a 10% increased risk of dying in the next five years.

“The weekend effect is very much a reality for those suffering two of the most prevalent heart conditions”

Rahul Potluri

The research was adjusted to account for external factors which could influence death rates, such as age, gender, ethnic group, and the most common causes of mortality in the UK.

In a separate study, the same researchers looked at 31,760 heart failure patients discharged from hospitals in the north of England at weekends, finding a 32% increased chance of dying over the next five years compared to those sent home during regular weekday hours.

Both studies were presented today at the British Cardiovascular Society Conference in Manchester.

The results will help fuel the debate over the government’s aim of implementing a so-called “seven-day service” in the NHS by 2020.

Ministers and the British Medical Association have both cited conflicting evidence on weekend mortality rates during their heated dispute over a new contract for junior doctors.

Dr Rahul Potluri, from Aston University’s medical school who led both of the new studies, said the results showed that the “weekend effect is very much a reality for those suffering two of the most prevalent heart conditions in the UK”.

Aston University

Heart studies reveal ‘weekend effect’ in NHS

Rahul Potluri

“These patients are, quite simply, more likely to die if admitted or discharged outside regular hours, and that trend is particularly noticeable at the weekend,” he said.

Co-author Dr Paul Carter, who presented the results in Manchester, said: “We took steps during this study to ensure that the comparison between the two groups was as fair as possible.

“It is interesting that both being admitted or discharged from hospital on the weekend confers an increased risk, and one which is sustained in the long-term,” he said.

He added: “We cannot comment on the underlying reasons for this from our study but it suggests that the level of support provided at weekends, from all teams involved in healthcare – in the hospital and in the community should be addressed.”

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “This is further clear evidence of unacceptable variation in care across the week, which this government is determined to tackle.

“To create the safer seven-day NHS that we promised the country, we must tackle a variety of factors including weekend staffing levels and access to diagnostics,” she said.



Readers' comments (9)

  • michael stone

    It is very thought-provoking that the increased risk of being admitted at the weekend is about 10% but the increased risk of being discharged at the weekend is about 30% - especially as this is 5-year risk. That discharge risk, doesn't seem at all 'intuitive' to me. But if there are breakdowns of when the patients died, during the 5 year period, that might shed some light - I won't be reading the papers to find out, as this isn't my 'area of interest': it is also possible, that the way NT has presented the papers, isn't a good enough reflection of what they actually say.

    But as I've said, the magnitude of the extra discharge risk, seems surprising.

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  • And your references to support your assertions are where? If it is not your area of interest on which you have apparently not bothered to inform yourself properly, why comment on it?

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  • Above comment addressed to m. Stone.

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  • michael stone

    I said, the report was thought-provoking: it is thought-provoking, but that assumes the reader can think. It doesn't need 'references' to support the suggestion that a result is 'thought provoking' - you only need to think about it.

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  • Clearly you are yet another who has gobbled up hunt's propaganda about the weekend deaths and are incapable of backing up your own assertions. One should have known better than to bother querying your commentary which you can't back up and which everyone else ignores.

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  • Steve, where do you get 32% for weekend discharges? i can only see 69.2% minus 66% in the report, which is 3 point 2. Have you miscalculated?
    It is generally accepted that patients are admitted at the weekend when they are more acutely ill, and this is a general explanation for such patients having a worse survival rate. As for being discharged at weekends, I don't know what we are supposed to make of that. The study itself states that no conclusion is drawn other than that more research is needed.

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  • michael stone

    Ben, if the figure for weekend discharges is 3.2%, and not the 32% which was mentioned in the NT article, then it isn't 'thought provoking'.

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  • No answer Steve?

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  • Stone. Readers from the professions really do not need a troll to comment just to tell them what is thought provoking! WhY don't you go and play with yourself elsewhere!

    JUNE, 2016 4:47 PM

    This comment was also addressed to you.

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