Medical Negligence: hospital patients 16% more likely to die at the weekend

20 February 2012

A recent study in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine reveals that patients admitted to hospital on Sundays are 16% more likely to die than patients admitted mid-week. Similarly, the ‘Dr Foster’ research, released in November, demonstrated a 10% increase in death rates for patients admitted at the weekend. Both studies confirm what we, as clinical negligence solicitors, have observed anecdotally for many years: that a disproportionate number of medical negligence claims arise from hospital treatment provided at weekends and on public holidays.

NHS resources are key to the standard of care provided to patients and it is clear that resources are stretched at the weekends and on public holidays.  Many of our solicitors are conducting clinical negligence and fatal accident cases which arise from failures of treatment during these “out of hours” periods. What the study does not measure, is the additional avoidable injury for these patients i.e. those who are injured but do not die. Tragic but easily foreseeable examples include: shortages of midwives leading to delays in delivery and a child who is then born with cerebral palsy; unavailability of diagnostic tests such as MRI or CT scanning leading to delays in diagnosing neurological conditions; or delays in surgical treatment due to unavailability of theatre staff.

NHS Medical Director, Sir Bruce Keogh, commenting on the research which he co-authored is reported as saying:

"It's about our NHS catching up with other service industries and offering a routine six- or seven-day week where people can see consultants or experts on a Saturday and maybe even a Sunday, where people can have routine operations over the weekend - more at their convenience than the convenience of the service - and also people who are worried on a Friday have access to expert advice - and that'll put the compassion back into the NHS."

We agree; we hope that the NHS will turn its attention to the issue of ‘out of hours’ resources so as to improve medical care and outcomes for patients.  However, in the interim Kingsley Napley’s clinical negligence team continues to pick up the pieces for patients who have suffered medical negligence both ‘out of hours’ and at other times.

If you or someone you know has been affected by medical negligence, please contact the clinical negligence team on 020 7814 1200 to see if we can help.

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