Contrary to the findings of earlier studies, the chances of dying in hospital do not increase if a patient is admitted over a weekend, at least not if their condition involves a stroke or blood clot.
Researchers from Syddansk University looked at 65,000 Danish patients who were admitted to Danish hospitals between 2003 and 2011 with a stroke or blood clot in the brain, concluding that the risk of a patient dying does not increase if they are admitted to the hospital on a Saturday or Sunday rather than a Wednesday.
Adjusting the numbers
“Raw figures indicate that patients admitted at weekends die at a higher rate than those admitted during regular hours,” Nina Sahlertz Kristiansen, who led the research, told Politiken.
“But when the numbers are adjusted to reflect that patients admitted over the weekend are often more seriously ill than those who are hospitalised throughout the week, the mortality rate equalises.”
Kristiansen said the mortality rate of patients with maladies other that blood clots on the brain or strokes may well be higher.
The 'weekend effect' debate flared up last August when the head doctor at a clinic in Helsingør published a study pointing to a higher weekend mortality rate.
At that time, Mads Koch Hansen, the head of the doctors' group Lægeforeningen, called for changes to the system.
But now Hansen says the latest figures show the changes are working.
“At least in this area, it appears we are doing better,” Hansen told Politiken. “We have focused on stoke patients and established acute care procedures that have helped.”
Patient organisation Danske Patienter expressed cautious optimism at the results of the study.
“If it is true things are improving for weekend and after-hours patients, then that is great,” said Danske Patienter head Morten Freil.
“But this is just one study, and other studies have shown different results, so a follow-up is needed.”