NHS Weekend Care: Data Unpicked

The risk of dying 30 days after admission is slightly increased if a patient is admitted over the weekend compared to a weekday. However, there is NO difference in the risk of dying IN hospital when you compare weekend admissions to weekday admissions. Why?


  1. On 16 July 2015, the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt declared on BBC Radio 4 and then in a Kings Fund speech that "6000 people lose their lives each year because we do not have a proper 7 day service in NHS hospitals". He claimed that he had data showing that a "5 day hospital culture" was responsible for "6000 extra patient deaths per year.
  2. On 26 July, Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, gave this interview to the Sunday Times:
  3. A number of newspaper articles criticising NHS weekend care have since emerged. The Sunday Times has launched a "safe weekend care" campaign..
  4. Even the Observer:
  5. I asked:
  6. Of course, the data had only just been published on 5 September in the BMJ:
  7. My interpretation:
  8. Spot the typo in the graph label!
  9. In other words, patients admitted on the weekends were at higher risk of dying as they came through the front door, almost twice as likely to be an emergency admission than on a weekday, and yet were at NO extra risk of dying during their hospital stay.
  10. How did we get from this result to blaming 6000 "extra" patient deaths on a "5 day hospital culture" and "lazy consultants"?