Weekend Mortality Rates

Being honest, I actually started writing this last week…but I may have got slightly distracted so I’m writing it now…and sorry for not posting in ages!…so anyway…

I was looking at BBC News Health and the headline Weekend births ‘pose higher death risk’ stood out for me. According to a study based on 1.3 million births, there was a 7% higher chance of death at the weekend than in the week (7.1 deaths out of every 1000 deliveries at the weekend) and in total, there are averagely 4500 deaths per year from 67500 births. It was also found that infection rates for mothers and injuries to the babies (anything from cuts to brain damage) were higher at weekends.

Interestingly, the day with the lowest death rate is Tuesday and the day with the highest risk of death was actually Thursday (but then on average weekends held a higher risk than weekdays); if every day was a Tuesday then there would be 770 less deaths per year.

The higher weekend mortality rate isn’t just a problem in the maternity unit or in England. In July, an article in the Nursing Times was published about a study looking at the Global Comparators project (an international database to which over 50 hospitals from the UK, US, Australia, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Finland, Norway and Denmark contribute); they found that, after taking account of other factors, the risk of dying within 30 days of emergency admission or elective surgery was higher for emergency admissions at weekends in three out of the four countries studied (28 teaching hospitals in England, Australia, the US and the Netherlands) and all patients admitted for planned weekend surgery had a higher chance of dying within 30 days than those admitted during the week. This risk was 8% higher in eleven hospitals in England, 13% higher in five of the US hospitals, and 20% higher in six Dutch hospitals.

These studies raise a number of concerns; why is the standard of care lower on a weekend? Why can’t every day be like a Tuesday?

And in turn, these concerns lead to questions- What can we do about it and what will this mean for midwives in the future?

Of course, I can’t predict the future but these studies back up the 7 day week plans to increase availability of weekend services, so I believe that midwives will end up working longer hours and have longer weeks. I just worry that working longer will lead to more mistakes.

But anyway, I know these things can’t really be controlled but try not to have a baby on a Thursday or at the weekend; you are much better off giving birth on a Tuesday.

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