"No excuse" for weekend increase in surgery death rates

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"No excuse" for weekend increase in surgery death rates

29th May 2013

A shocking report has shown that patients who undergo surgery at the end of the week are 44 per cent more likely to die than those who have an operation on a Monday.

The British Medical Journal study found that the risk of patients dying was even higher – as much as 82 per cent - if the operation was carried out during the weekend.

Jacqui Hayat, a specialist medical negligence lawyer with Fentons Solicitors LLP, has said there is simply no excuse for the shocking statistics. “It is clearly a massive concern if our health service cannot offer a consistent level of high-quality care throughout the entire week,” she said. “Patients undergoing surgery are often already apprehensive and nervous – they should not have to worry about the day of the week influencing their chances of survival.”

The research, which looked at over four million non-emergency NHS operations undertaken in hospitals in England between 2008 and 2011, found that the risk of patients dying within 30 days of a planned operation increased every day of the week after Monday.

“We deal with hundreds of inquiries from people who have been affected by surgical error,” said Jacqui, a partner and head of the firm’s London Clinical Negligence team, “and although we may identify trends and patterns relating to times and days of procedures, this is the first time we have been able to see the results of such a widespread study. The results are quite shocking.”

Of the 4.1m planned surgical procedures studied, more than 27,000 patients died within a month of surgery, with 5.5 of those who had their operations on a Monday dying per 1,000 hospital admissions. Rates of death then rose to 6.2 per thousand admissions on Tuesdays, 6.7 on Wednesdays, 7.0 on Thursdays and 8.2 on Fridays – 44 per cent higher than the rate for Monday patients.

Jacqui said the fact that mortality rates varied significantly depending on what day of the week people underwent planned operations was not only alarming, but simply unacceptable.

“The first 48 hours following surgery are critical in terms of patient recovery and the risks of developing complications,” she said. “As such it is absolutely vital, not to mention expected, that experienced staff are on hand to provide the kind of quality aftercare patients need and deserve to receive after their operations – regardless of the day.

“To simply rely on providing a decent weekday service is unacceptable,” she said. “I hope that this report underlines the need for the NHS to do more to provide a consistent and safe seven-day service, so that patients can expect the same levels of professional and high quality care regardless of what day of the week it is that they receive their treatment.”

Read more at: BBC News, Sky News