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      Weekend specialist intensity and admission mortality in acute hospital trusts in England: a cross-sectional study

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          Summary

          Background

          Increased mortality rates associated with weekend hospital admission (the so-called weekend effect) have been attributed to suboptimum staffing levels of specialist consultants. However, evidence for a causal association is elusive, and the magnitude of the weekend specialist deficit remains unquantified. This uncertainty could hamper efforts by national health systems to introduce 7 day health services. We aimed to examine preliminary associations between specialist intensity and weekend admission mortality across the English National Health Service.

          Methods

          Eligible hospital trusts were those in England receiving unselected emergency admissions. On Sunday June 15 and Wednesday June 18, 2014, we undertook a point prevalence survey of hospital specialists (consultants) to obtain data relating to the care of patients admitted as emergencies. We defined specialist intensity at each trust as the self-reported estimated number of specialist hours per ten emergency admissions between 0800 h and 2000 h on Sunday and Wednesday. With use of data for all adult emergency admissions for financial year 2013–14, we compared weekend to weekday admission risk of mortality with the Sunday to Wednesday specialist intensity ratio within each trust. We stratified trusts by size quintile.

          Findings

          127 of 141 eligible acute hospital trusts agreed to participate; 115 (91%) trusts contributed data to the point prevalence survey. Of 34 350 clinicians surveyed, 15 537 (45%) responded. Substantially fewer specialists were present providing care to emergency admissions on Sunday (1667 [11%]) than on Wednesday (6105 [42%]). Specialists present on Sunday spent 40% more time caring for emergency patients than did those present on Wednesday (mean 5·74 h [SD 3·39] vs 3·97 h [3·31]); however, the median specialist intensity on Sunday was only 48% (IQR 40–58) of that on Wednesday. The Sunday to Wednesday intensity ratio was less than 0·7 in 104 (90%) of the contributing trusts. Mortality risk among patients admitted at weekends was higher than among those admitted on weekdays (adjusted odds ratio 1·10, 95% CI 1·08–1·11; p<0·0001). There was no significant association between Sunday to Wednesday specialist intensity ratios and weekend to weekday mortality ratios ( r −0·042; p=0·654).

          Interpretation

          This cross-sectional analysis did not detect a correlation between weekend staffing of hospital specialists and mortality risk for emergency admissions. Further investigation is needed to evaluate whole-system secular change during the implementation of 7 day services. Policy makers should exercise caution before attributing the weekend effect mainly to differences in specialist staffing.

          Funding

          National Institute for Health Research Health Services and Delivery Research Programme.

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          Most cited references 20

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          Hospital volume and failure to rescue with high-risk surgery.

          Although the relationship between surgical volume and mortality is well established, the mechanisms underlying these associations remain uncertain. We sought to determine whether increased mortality at low-volume centers was due to higher complication rates or less success in rescuing patients from complications. Using 2005 to 2007 Medicare data, we identified patients undergoing 3 high-risk cancer operations: gastrectomy, pancreatectomy, and esophagectomy. We first ranked hospitals according to their procedural volume for these operations and divided them into 5 equal groups (quintiles) based on procedure volume cutoffs that most closely resulted in an equal distribution of patients through the quintiles. We then compared the incidence of major complications and "failure to rescue" (ie, case fatality among patients with complications) across hospital quintiles. We performed this analysis for all operations combined and for each operation individually. With all 3 operations combined, failure to rescue had a much stronger relationship to hospital volume than postoperative complications. Very low-volume (lowest quintile) hospitals had only slightly higher complications rates (42.7% vs. 38.9%; odds ratio 1.17, 95% confidence interval, 1.02-1.33), but markedly higher failure-to-rescue rates (30.3% vs. 13.1%; odds ratio 2.89, 95% confidence interval, 2.40-3.48) compared with very high-volume hospitals (highest quintile). These relationships also held true for individual operations. For example, patients undergoing pancreatectomy at very low-volume hospitals were 1.7 times more likely to have a major complication than those at very high-volume hospitals (38.3% vs. 27.7%, P<0.05), but 3.2 times more likely to die once those complications had occurred (26.0% vs. 9.9%, P<0.05). Differences in mortality between high and low-volume hospitals are not associated with large differences in complication rates. Instead, these differences seem to be associated with the ability of a hospital to effectively rescue patients from complications. Strategies focusing on the timely recognition and management of complications once they occur may be essential to improving outcomes at low-volume hospitals.
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            Day of week of procedure and 30 day mortality for elective surgery: retrospective analysis of hospital episode statistics

            Objectives To assess the association between mortality and the day of elective surgical procedure. Design Retrospective analysis of national hospital administrative data. Setting All acute and specialist English hospitals carrying out elective surgery over three financial years, from 2008-09 to 2010-11. Participants Patients undergoing elective surgery in English public hospitals. Main outcome measure Death in or out of hospital within 30 days of the procedure. Results There were 27 582 deaths within 30 days after 4 133 346 inpatient admissions for elective operating room procedures (overall crude mortality rate 6.7 per 1000). The number of weekday and weekend procedures decreased over the three years (by 4.5% and 26.8%, respectively). The adjusted odds of death were 44% and 82% higher, respectively, if the procedures were carried out on Friday (odds ratio 1.44, 95% confidence interval 1.39 to 1.50) or a weekend (1.82, 1.71 to 1.94) compared with Monday. Conclusions The study suggests a higher risk of death for patients who have elective surgical procedures carried out later in the working week and at the weekend.
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              Increased mortality associated with weekend hospital admission: a case for expanded seven day services?

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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Journal
                Lancet
                Lancet
                Lancet (London, England)
                Elsevier
                0140-6736
                1474-547X
                09 July 2016
                09 July 2016
                : 388
                : 10040
                : 178-186
                Affiliations
                [a ]University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
                [b ]University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, Birmingham, UK
                [c ]University of Warwick, Coventry, UK
                [d ]University Hospitals Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, Southampton, UK
                [e ]Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK
                [f ]University of Southampton, Southampton, UK
                [g ]Academy of Medical Royal Colleges Patient Liaison Group, London, UK
                [h ]Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust, Southampton, UK
                [i ]University of Leicester, Leicester, UK
                [j ]Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust, Birmingham, UK
                Author notes
                [* ]Correspondence to: Prof Julian Bion, University Department of Anaesthesia and Critical Care, Institute of Clinical Sciences, Office 1, Ground Floor East Heritage Building, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham B15 2TH, UKCorrespondence to: Prof Julian BionUniversity Department of Anaesthesia and Critical CareInstitute of Clinical SciencesOffice 1Ground Floor East Heritage BuildingQueen Elizabeth HospitalBirminghamB15 2THUK j.f.bion@ 123456bham.ac.uk
                [*]

                Joint first authors

                [†]

                Members listed at the end of the paper and in the appendix

                Article
                S0140-6736(16)30442-1
                10.1016/S0140-6736(16)30442-1
                4945602
                27178476
                © 2016 Aldridge et al. Open Access article distributed under the terms of CC BY

                This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

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