Friday, June 11, 2010

Hospital deaths peaks at weekends

Dr Foster reports that you are more likely to die if admitted to hospital at the weekends than at any other time. This comes as no surprise to anyone who has spent lengthy time in hospital. It came as a surprise to me that hospitals are run as though people fall sick only during the week, during the day time.

Before I spent a lot of time with my husband and latterly my son in hospital, I presumed that hospitals would be practical and reflect human reality, which is that people get ill and are ill constantly, not to a timetable. It came as a shock to find that services shut down at the weekends, that a single junior doctor might be expected to trail around the hospital over night and at weekends, putting in drips and reviewing medication.

It makes me very angry to see that senior consultants "prefer to work office hours"... because generally, they don't, as far as I can see. When was the last time you went to the hospital and actually saw the senior consultant that was on your paperwork, rather than a registrar or junior doctor?

It seems to be worse in some areas and better in others. Obstetrics and Gynaecology seem to be more or less completely in the hands of junior doctors, unless you are lucky enough to have any complication at a time when a consultant is accidentally on duty or on the premises.

Paediatric consultants seem to be on duty and at the hospital far more frequently than the consultants in other areas.

There are other factors too, I think. The gradual destruction of the GP out of hours services means that people are far more likely to end up at hospital at the weekend than at any other time. The pattern of drinking in the country means that people are far more likely to come to harm on a Friday or Saturday night than at any other time of the week.

There are many aspects of our health service that seem to make little sense to someone outside the NHS, and this supposition that people and their ailments will respect working hours is one of them. The idea that a junior doctor might be capable of overseeing a whole hospital of patients overnight at the weekend, when there are likely to be just as many if not more patients in need of help, is just bizarre. I wonder why, with the huge number of administrators in the NHS, this hasn't occurred to them directly.