Thousands of hospital patients dying because too few senior staff work weekends

Health Direct warns that with the weekend coming up, patients are much more likely to die if they are rushed to hospital at weekends than during the week, because too few senior staff are working.
Thousands of hospital patients dying because too few senior staff work weekendsHigher deaths rates at weekends mean thousands of patients every year are dying unnecessarily, according to the findings.

Patients were seven per cent more likely to die if they were admitted as an emergency case on a Saturday or Sunday, the largest study of its kind shows.

The higher rates were equivalent to 3,369 extra deaths a year, more than the total number who die every year on Britain’s roads.

Conditions including heart attacks, heart failure, stroke and some cancers all had higher deaths rates at weekends than Monday to Friday.

The team behind the findings warned that a lack of senior staff, such as consultants, working weekends and reduced access to specialist services could be behind the higher death rates.

Hospitals should look closely at weekend staffing rotas and other potential problem areas, according to researchers.

Dr Paul Aylin, from Imperial College London, who led the study, said: “We estimate that there were over 3,000 more deaths than expected at weekends in 2005/06 compared to weekdays – more than the number of people dying in road accidents in 2006.

“Clearly this is a significant number of people and we need to get to the bottom of what this means. Staffing levels are often lower at weekends, with fewer senior medical staff around, and some specialist services are less available.

“We believe this may be contributing to the increase in mortality rates on Saturdays and Sundays but we would like to see more research.”

The study looked at all emergency patients admitted to 163 hospital trusts across England between 2005 and 2006.

The findings are published in the journal Quality & Safety in Health Care.

The study, supported by Dr Foster Intelligence, the independent research company, reviewed more than four million admissions and 215,000 deaths.


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