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Weekend A&E Admissions 'More Likely to Die'

Weekend A&E Admissions 'More Likely to Die'

A report has found that emergency patients admitted to hospital on weekends are almost 10% more likely to die.

The study, carried out by research group Dr Foster, showed that one in eight trusts had higher than expected mortality rates at the weekend. In a "handful" of these, death rates increased by 20% or more over Saturday and Sunday.

Researchers investigated death rates according to four measures: deaths in hospital, deaths in hospital and within 30 days of discharge, deaths linked to low-risk conditions and deaths after surgery. Overall, the findings showed emergency death rates went from 7.4% during the weeks to 8.1% a weekends. This marks a 9.5% rise.

It was also revealed that patients are much less likely to receive prompt treatment at the weekend, when services such as scans and x-rays are largely unavailable, and the number of consultants is significantly decreased. In conclusion, the report said the state of NHS care at weekends was "worrying".

Experts have suggested these problems can be attributed to weekend staffing issues. In particular, attention has been drawn to the fact fewer senior doctors work at weekends, prompting concerns over the ability of junior doctors who are often left in charge.

Roger Taylor, director of research at Dr Foster, spoke of his concerns regarding the shortage of senior doctors: "It's about having the more experienced staff in the hospital, looking after patients out of normal working hours. The junior doctors, they're always around, but they're not the ones making a difference here."

President of the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) Sir Richard Thompson, said: "At last we have data that clearly links higher numbers of senior doctors in hospitals at the weekend with lower mortality rates.

"The findings of the Dr Foster report support the RCP's 2010 recommendation that any hospital admitting acutely ill patients should have a consultant physician on-site for at least 12 hours per day, seven days a week. No other duties should be scheduled during this time."

He added: "In addition, all medical wards should have at least one daily visit from a consultant; in most hospitals this will involve more than one physician. At a time when finances are tight, hospitals will see freezing the number of staff as a way to save money, but we must ensure this does not happen."

NHS medical director Professor Sir Bruce Keogh admitted it was vital to "investigate" the findings to ensure "patients admitted at weekends receive the same standards of care as those during the week."

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