NHS weekend failings: Report shows patients 24% more likely to die if operation is on a Friday

Statistics highlight poor quality of care for those recovering at weekends, which Jeremy Hunt calls ‘completely unacceptable’

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The Independent Online

NHS patients having an operation on a Friday are 24 per cent more likely to die than if they had one earlier in the week, in a damning indictment for the standard of care provided at weekends.

Overall, people admitted to hospital have a 20 per cent greater chance of dying at a weekend, and are also 3.9 per cent more likely to be readmitted in an emergency on a Saturday or Sunday.

The statistics are from a major report by the firm Dr Foster, and come as NHS medical director Professor Sir Bruce Keogh is set to publish his own findings on the seven-day operations of the health service.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the findings highlighted a discrepancy that is “completely unacceptable”, with the chance of a patient receiving treatment, having a prompt operation or even receiving an emergency scan dropping significantly at the weekend.

A poll of more than 5,500 doctors for doctors.net.uk, included in the study, showed that 68 per cent of doctors believe patients admitted on weekends receive poorer care.

Eight NHS trusts in today's report have higher death rates at the weekend than weekdays. These include Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust and United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust.

Seven trusts, including East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust and University Hospital of North Staffordshire NHS Trust, have patients admitted at the weekend who are more likely to return to hospital after being discharged.

Dr Foster director of research Roger Taylor said: “We have now looked at many different aspects of quality of care. Every indicator we look at shows that patients who come to hospitals on weekends get worse care and worse outcomes.

“We are pleased that the NHS has made addressing this issue a priority and there is evidence that these efforts are already starting to yield benefits for patients with shorter waits for operations at weekends and, in some cases, lower mortality rates.”

Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt said: “I want to see the NHS giving the same high-quality care seven days a week, and it is good to hear that things are improving. But it is completely unacceptable that some patients are still suffering simply because it is the weekend.

“We asked Professor Sir Bruce Keogh to look at how a seven-day NHS would work, and he is due to report back soon. I look forward to seeing his report and the NHS acting on it.”

Additional reporting by PA