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British Journal of Surgery study on the weekend effect in Emergency General Surgery

15 Aug 2016

Responding to a study on the weekend effect in emergency general surgery published in the British Journal of Surgery, John Abercrombie, consultant general surgeon and spokesperson for the Royal College of Surgeons, said:

‘This important study shows the NHS has reduced the death rate from emergency general surgery over the last decade. This is good news for patients who are critically ill and need emergency operations. However, other recent studies have shown the standards of care of such patients remain highly variable across the country and improving emergency general surgery must continue to be a high priority for the NHS.

‘The Royal College of Surgeons supports the need to have the same quality of care every day of the week for patients receiving treatment. Efforts should be targeted on urgent and emergency care where the evidence demonstrates there is a problem.

‘Significantly this study challenges the assumption that higher weekend mortality can in some cases be explained by people admitted at weekends being sicker. This study shows the opposite to be true in emergency general surgery. It also shows that the weekend effect has diminished over time for emergency general surgery patients in northern England. The NHS needs to assess whether there are any lessons we can learn from this that can be applied in other areas of medicine.

‘It is important not to misuse this study to assume the weekend effect therefore does not exist in all areas of healthcare. This is just one study of patients for one area of surgery in northern England. We continue to call for further research to help the NHS pinpoint where it needs to improve night-time and weekend care.’

Notes to editors

The Royal College of Surgeons of England is a professional membership organisation and registered charity, which exists to advance surgical standards and improve patient care.

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