A recent study published in the Emergency Medicine Journal has suggested that the costly reforms implemented by the Department of Health, in an effort to combat elevated weekend death rates, have proved unsuccessful.
The reforms were applied in the form of four clinical standards for the NHS weekend performance, after it has been determined that patients admitted to hospital on weekends experience higher mortality rates than those admitted during the week.
The NHS measures its performance against four clinical standards during the weekend: time to first consultant review, access to diagnostics, access to consultant-direct interventions, and on-going consultant review. These have been described by the Department of Heath as “reforms that will save lives.”
However, the Emergency Medicine Journal’s study fails to ascertain any correlation between their implementation and the consistently elevated weekend death rates.
Dr Rachel Meacock from The University of Manchester centre for Health Economics has stated that the NHS has rushed to fix a perceived problem that it does not fully understand. She pointed towards the lack of evidence suggesting an existent link between mortality rates and lack of extra service provisions for the weekend. Indeed, previous research indicated that the higher mortality rates on the weekends are mainly due to the patients admitted at the time being sicker.
The findings have raised concerns over the fiscal management of the NHS. The failed policy is believed to have caused up to £1.4 billion to be miss-allocated during a time of uncertainty in regards to government funding.
Professor Matt Sutton from The University of Manchester centre for Health Economics believes that reforms involving the imposition of blanket standards on doctors at certain times will limit the ability to prioritise certain patients, whom according to professional judgement may be in more direct need compared to others. Ultimately he believes this has the potential to result in more harm for other patients.