Background: There is a commonly held assumption that early August is an unsafe period to be admitted to hospital in England, as newly qualified doctors start work in NHS hospitals on the first Wednesday of August. We investigate whether in-hospital mortality is higher in the week following the first Wednesday in August than in the previous week.
Methodology: A retrospective study in England using administrative hospital admissions data. Two retrospective cohorts of all emergency patients admitted on the last Wednesday in July and the first Wednesday in August for 2000 to 2008, each followed up for one week.
Principal findings: The odds of death for patients admitted on the first Wednesday in August was 6% higher (OR 1.06, 95% CI 1.00 to 1.15, p=0.05) after controlling for year, gender, age, socio-economic deprivation and co-morbidity. When subdivided into medical, surgical and neoplasm admissions, medical admissions admitted on the first Wednesday in August had an 8% (OR 1.08, 95% CI 1.01 to 1.16, p=0.03) higher odds of death. In 2007 and 2008, when the system for junior doctors' job applications changed, patients admitted on Wednesday August 1(st) had 8% higher adjusted odds of death than those admitted the previous Wednesday, but this was not statistically significant (OR 1.08, 95% CI 0.95 to 1.23, p=0.24).
Conclusions: We found evidence that patients admitted on the first Wednesday in August have a higher early death rate in English hospitals compared with patients admitted on the previous Wednesday. This was higher for patients admitted with a medical primary diagnosis.