NHS death rate increases over 80% for operations held on a weekend
NHS patients who undergo operations over the weekends are 80% more likely to die according to a new research published by Imperial College of London.
The study reveals that surgical operations are more successful on certain days of the week, with Friday and weekends being the most hazardous days to perform surgery.
Based on results of 4 million elective operations that were performed and required at least one nights stay in NHS hospitals across England between 2008 and 2011, researchers have found that patients who had surgery on a Friday were 44% more likely to die following the procedure than those who had the same operations on a Monday, with the risks steadily increasing as the week progressed.
Figures show 27,582 patients died within 30 days of their surgery with an overall mortality rate of 0.67%. Overall the risk of death was lowest for those being operated on a Monday but gradually went up to 15% on a Wednesday, 21% on a Thursday and 44% on a Friday.
Commenting on the new findings, lead researcher Dr Paul Aylin said: “The first 48 hours after an operation are often the most critical period of care for surgery patients. A failure to rescue the patient could be due to well-known issues relating to reduced or locum staffing and poorer availability of staff over a weekend.”
The research exposes poor NHS hospital care over the weekends. Indeed, with reports of fewer staff on duty and more pressure on temporary workers the research reinforces notions that an increased risk of death is most likely due to a shift in standard of care.
Previous studies have found that the chance of dying after a surgery is far higher on weekends compared to weekdays but have been unable to establish whether this is mainly because surgery carried over the weekend is more likely to be urgent and carry higher risks. The new research is the first to examine the death rates following surgery during the week.
More than 1.3 million planned operations are performed each year in NHS hospitals which include elective surgery procedures such as heart bypass, hip and knee replacements, gastric operations and hysterectomies.
Canadian doctors commenting on the study have suggested “there should be a rethink on whether any elective surgery should take place at the weekend. As emergency procedures such as the repair of ruptured aortic aneurysms cannot be controlled, however, elective procedures, such as knee replacements can be scheduled.”