Why a stroke is more likely to kill you at the weekend
Hundreds of stroke patients die each year because they happen to fall ill on a Saturday or Sunday

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UPDATED:

08:11 GMT, 10 July 2012

A thousand stroke patients die or suffer serious disability each year because they fall ill at the weekend, a study has revealed.

Research from Imperial College London and the National Audit Office found patients who were admitted to hospital on Saturday or Sunday were less likely to receive urgent treatments and had the worse outcomes.

Study author William Palmer led a study of patients admitted to hospitals with stroke from April 2009
through March 2010, accounting for nearly 100,000 admissions.

A patient undergoes a CT scan: The X-ray test helps determine the cause of a suspected stroke

A patient undergoes a CT scan: The X-ray test helps determine the cause of a suspected stroke, but patients are less likely to receive one at the weekend (posed)

They found performance across five of six measures
was lower on weekends, with 43.1 per cent of patients receiving same-day brain scans compared with 47.6 per cent on weekdays.

The results also revealed that the rate of seven-day, in-hospital mortality
for Sunday admissions was 11 per cent compared with a mean (average) of
8.9 per cent for weekday admissions.

Writing in the Archives of Neurology, the authors said: 'We calculated that approximately 350
potentially avoidable in-hospital deaths occur within seven days each
year and that an additional 650 people could be discharged to their
usual place of residence within 56 days if the performance seen on
weekdays was replicated on weekends.'

The results are particularly significant because stroke is the largest cause of disability in England, costing the NHS 3billion a year in direct care.

One solution could be to concentrate stroke services in fewer hospitals, according to the researchers.

It is not the first time concerns have been raised about poorer NHS care at weekends.

In February this year a study of over 14million NHS admissions
found that Sunday patients were 16 per cent more likely to die within
the next 30 days than those brought in on a Wednesday.

Chances of recovery were found to be jeopardised because senior doctors were absent and tests and scans were not immediately available.

In response Health Secretary Andrew Lansley ordered a ‘fundamental rethink’ of how hospitals are run at weekends.

He said: 'It is unacceptable that patients admitted to hospital on a Saturday or Sunday stay longer and have worse results.

‘Much of the rest of the country continues to be open for the public’s needs at weekends – an NHS that revolves around patients should be the same.'