Over-reliance on junior doctors and a lack of specialist services is resulting in a higher death rate over the weekends in NHS hospitals, a study has found.
Research from the Dr Foster Unit and the Department of Acute Medicine at Imperial College London found that the death rate among NHS emergency admissions across England increased by 7% at weekends over the 2005-06 period.
The rise equates to 3,369 more deaths at the weekend than would normally be expected during weekday hours.
Although the authors of the study could not give definitive reasons for the increased death rate, they did say that a lack of specialist services and a tendency for junior doctors to work weekend hours could be to blame.
The study adds credence to the findings of a separate report published recently by Professor Sir John Temple, which criticised out-of-hours care in NHS hospitals.
It said too many junior doctors are left unsupervised on wards overnight and at weekends, with the NHS being “too reliant” on trainees.
Some older consultants are reluctant to work later hours and prefer to stick to a standard week, which affects trainees who need to learn, the report said.
Copyright Press Association 2010
Imperial College London