BIRMINGHAM, England, Aug. 15 (UPI) -- Studies have suggested a higher likelihood of patients dying if they are hospitalized on the weekend, but researchers in England found that if the "weekend effect" exists, if may be fading.
Mortality for patients having general surgery after being hospitalized over the weekend have declined by half during the last 15 years, which, according to researchers at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, suggests the dangers of the weekend effect are lessening.
A 2012 study by the same authors found hospital patients had an increased relative risk death on Saturdays and Sundays of 10 percent and 15 percent, respectively, and that 11,000 more patients die within 30 days of treatment if admitted to the hospital between Friday and Monday.
Recent re-evaluations of data and evidence have called into question whether the weekend effect even exists, and the new study appears to suggest that, at the very least, problems with care on the weekend are being addressed and corrected.
"Emergency surgery has long been recognized as an area of surgical practice that is high risk, complex and facing significant challenges with an aging population," Dr. Paul O'Loughlin, a researcher at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, said in a press release. "In conducting this research we found that there have been great improvements in outcomes overall, and also differences in care provided within the week and at the weekend."
For the study, published in the British Journal of Surgery, researchers reviewed data on emergency surgical admissions by English hospitals associated with the National Health Service between 2000 and 2014.
Among the 12,100 patients who died within 30 days of admission to the hospital in the 15-year study period, researchers found the pace of deaths admitted on Saturday or Sunday was reduced over time: 5.4 percent of patients between 2000 and 2004; 4 percent from 2005 to 2009; and 2.9 percent from 2010 to 2014.
"In the most recent time period studied we could no longer detect a statistical difference in outcomes on patients operated on at the weekend or during the week," O'Loughlin said. "Although significant challenges remain, we are pleased to show the responsiveness of the profession by providing increasingly high quality surgical care to this patient group."