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Shifting the blame will not help

02 September 2021
Volume 26 · Issue 9

The Independent reported last month that a lack of hospital doctors was ‘not to blame’ for greater hospital mortality at the weekend. Instead, Lintern (2021) wrote, new findings ‘point the finger … at the state of community services and weekend GP cover, which … could be behind the higher risk of death for patients admitted at the weekend’.

The cited study (Bion et al, 2021) investigated former health secretary Jeremy Hunt's claim that fewer consultants at weekends contributed to higher mortality. Hunt's campaign for a ‘24/7 NHS' provoked doctors' strikes in 2016. The data examined included patient emergency admissions from 115 acute trusts and 4000 case records. The authors found that consultants' weekend hours have increased and emergency care has improved, but that emergency patients admitted on weekends have more comorbidities and a greater need of palliative care than those admitted during the week. Post-discharge deaths have risen and GP referrals at weekends are one-third of those on weekdays. The study called for more research into GPs' role in the pathway from community to hospital.

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