New figures show that patients who are admitted to hospital on a Sunday are twice as likely to die as those admitted on Mondays
Patients admitted to hospital on a Sunday are twice as likely to die as those admitted on Mondays, figures for England suggest.
Analysis of admissions to English hospitals in 2010/11 show 1.4% of patients admitted on a Monday died but the figure rose to 2.8% for those admitted on a Sunday. The death rate for Saturday admissions was 2.5%, whereas for weekdays the figures were 1.4% or 1.3%.
The figures are based on more than 15 million admissions to English NHS hospitals and NHS-commissioned activity in the independent sector, including emergencies and elective care.
The overall figure showed that 228,986 of those admitted to hospital died (1.5%) and 14,839,889 (98.5%) were discharged alive. Just 1.3% of those admitted on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and 1.4% of Friday admissions died.
Health minister Anna Soubry gave the figures in a parliamentary written answer. She said: "It is important that people have access to services that are consistently safe and high quality every day of the week. The Royal Colleges and specialist societies are leading the way on how to do this through the development of standards and guidance, and the Department will work with these organisations and others to make this happen across the National Health Service."
A study in February this year, based on figures for 2009/10, suggested patients are 16% more likely to die if they are admitted on a Sunday than a Wednesday, and 11% more likely to die if they are admitted on a Saturday.
Lead researcher Professor Domenico Pagano, from the University Hospital Birmingham Foundation Trust, added: "These results offer conclusive evidence that confirms previous reports of increased 30-day mortality risk for patients admitted to hospital with emergency conditions at the weekend compared with the rest of the week."
He said several reasons may be behind the findings, including that patients who are seriously ill can find themselves admitted on weekends. If they were less ill, they would have had their admissions postponed until a weekday. Prof Pagano also said reduced staffing and fewer senior doctors on duty as well as poor access to diagnostic tests at weekends could have an effect.
A Department of Health spokesman said: "Patients need the NHS every day - not just Monday to Friday. Some places are already thinking about treating patients at weekends - in Birmingham and Torbay, hospitals have begun working on Saturdays and sometimes on Sundays. Their scanners are open to provide tests, they are doing operations, and they have more staff around.
"Having more senior staff and consultants around at weekends is fundamental to the NHS shifting from a five-day week to a seven-day week. It will mean better support for junior doctors and key decisions - like what tests to run, what treatment to give and whether to operate - can be made more quickly. We are now talking to all the professional associations to look at how we can help this to happen across the NHS."