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‘Reduced community care could cause higher weekend hospital deaths’



Reduced community care services could be the reason patients admitted to hospital over the weekend are more likely to die – the so-called ‘weekend effect’, a study has found.

It is commonly said the ‘weekend effect’ is because there are too few available consultants in hospitals. However, a major University of Birmingham five-year study, released today, highlighted there has been no evidence to prove this.

It concluded patients admitted at weekends are already sicker, frailer, and less likely to have been referred to hospital by their GP. Reduced community services at weekends might cause this, researchers suggested.

Julian Bion, professor of intensive care medicine at the University of Birmingham, urged policy makers to focus on improving weekend healthcare services across social, community and secondary healthcare. He said: ‘It is the whole patient pathway that is of interest, not just isolated segments.’

Researchers surveyed specialists about their working patterns, interviewed hospital staff and patients about their experiences, and studied national trends, including how many patients died in hospital or shortly after discharge.

They also used a team of 81 doctors to review 4,000 anonymised emergency admission patient records from 20 hospital trusts to look at quality of care.

The quality of care in hospital is slightly better at weekends than on weekdays and has improved with time, the study also showed.

The findings come amid increasing pressure on community services. Last month, a study found community nurses and GPs feel ‘emotionally and physically drained’ because of surging demand for end-of-life care during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In May, Nursing in Practice looked in depth at the pressure on palliative and end-of-life care services increasing because of more people waiting longer for hospital treatment since the start of the Covid pandemic, and more people dying at home

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