Going to the hospital? It might be better go on a weekday.
That's the view of Britain’s top health official, Jeremy Hunt, who’s been calling for more doctors to offset so-called “weekend effect” of higher death rates on Saturdays and Sundays. The theory is that on weekends hospitals are shorter-staffed, so more patients die.
But is that really what’s going on? According to a new study, not really.
Researchers at Manchester University and York University say it’s true that death rates at British hospitals are higher on weekends—but that’s not because more people are dying.
“Higher mortality rates at weekends are found only amongst the subset of patients who are admitted,” the study concluded. “The reduced availability of primary care services and the higher Accident and Emergency admission threshold at weekends mean fewer and sicker patients are admitted at weekends than during the week.”
In other words, the issue is not that hospitals are giving worse care. It’s that on weekends they admit fewer patients, so the ones they do admit have more serious and life-threatening health problems.
As for the actual number of people who die-- not the percentage of those admitted-- the numbers are actually lower on weekends. That's good news for Britons, but not such good news for Jeremy Hunt.