Out-of-hours staffing levels in London hospitals and their A&E departments, particularly during weekends, cause approximately 520 avoidable patient deaths each year, a report has found.
An investigation carried out by NHS London found the number of available hospital consultants was severely lacking on Saturday and Sundays.
According to the study, there is a “stark” contrast between the amount of staff members on shift during weekdays compared to in the evenings and at weekends.
The report, named the ‘Acute medicine and emergency general surgery case for change’, said: “Reduced service provision at weekends is associated with higher mortality rate.”
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It was also noted that weekends see more patient deaths in London hospitals than during the week.
“If the weekend mortality rate in London was the same as the weekday rate, there would be around 520 fewer deaths,” it said.
Although the results differ between hospitals in the English capital, overall, emergency consultants and surgeons were available for an average of 10 hours a day Monday-Friday, but this decreased to just four hours a day on Saturdays and Sundays.
A specific example of the vast difference in staffing levels between sites can be seen by looking at Hillingdon Hospital, Croydon Health Services, Kings College University Hospital and Newham University Hospital.
In the Croydon facility an emergency on-call consultant was present on site for 12 hours a day during weekends, while the Hillingdon facility had adequate cover for nine hours a day.
However, at both Newham University Hospital and King’s College University Hospital there was only two hours cover during out-of-hours services.
“In London there is significant variation in the number of hours that a consultant is expected to be on-site,” it said in the report.
It was added: “There is inadequate access in almost a third of London's hospitals to an emergency theatre - this is detrimental to patient outcomes and can increase mortality and morbidity.”
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