Dr Foster Intelligence’s director of research has called for hospitals to move to seven day working, after the information provider published new figures showing there is a significant increase in mortality at the weekend.
Roger Taylor said “other industries have adopted effective weekend operating, so these mortality figures are a worrying sign of the NHS’ failure to modernise its working practices.”
Former health secretary Andrew Lansley urged the NHS to open seven days a week earlier this year, after a study published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine found that patients admitted to hospital on a Sunday are 16% more likely to die within 30 days of admission than those admitted on a Wednesday.
Dr Foster Intelligence looked at a number of specific conditions, and found that in-patients with aneurysms are 10% more likely to die if they are admitted to hospital as an emergency on a Saturday or Sunday, while people with atherosclerosis have an 8% higher risk of dying.
Pancreatic and lung cancer patients have 9% and 6% higher weekend death rates compared to weekdays. The figures are based on analysis of official hospital data from 2010-11 provided for all conditions with more than 250 deaths.
Taylor hosted a Twitter chat on the figures today, and said that hospitals don’t have enough staff to deal with patients at weekends. However, he also said that community cover was just as important as hospital cover.
In its research, Dr Foster Intelligence points out that support for people to die at home or in a hospice is sometimes not available at weekends, and this can be a factor in high hospital death rates for people with some conditions, such as cancer.
The latest figures seem to have caught the attention of new health secretary Jeremy Hunt. During the twitter chat, he tweeted: “Welcome to my 1st Dept Health tweet. Busy looking at improving mortality rates for big killer diseases.”
As well as highlighting several other conditions with higher weekend death rates, Dr Foster Intelligence, also found a serious lack of access to key medical tests.
Patients who needed MRI scans were 8% less likely to get the scan if they were admitted on a weekend. The same trend was found for gastroscopies, a procedure used to examine the digestive system.
The proportion of patients who were promptly given this test was more than a third lower on a Saturday and Sunday than during the traditional working week.
Dr Foster Intelligence, who is a joint venture with the Department of Health, first voiced concerns about weekend working in the annual Hospital Guide in November 2011, which noted an increased death rate for all patients needing unplanned treatment.
The organisation told eHealth Insider it had released the latest figures to highlight the risk for individual conditions.
Dr Foster Intelligence also says its new hospital quality benchmarking tool, Quality Investigator, will help trusts to pinpoint the areas most affected by weekend working arrangements, by benchmarking their performance against others.
Dr Foster Intelligence will release its 2012 Hospital Guide in November.
© 2012 EHealth Media.
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