Weekend admission to hospital has a higher risk of death in the elective setting than in the emergency setting: a retrospective database study of national health service hospitals in England

BMC Health Serv Res. 2012 Apr 2:12:87. doi: 10.1186/1472-6963-12-87.


Background: Although acute hospitals offer a twenty-four hour seven day a week service levels of staffing are lower over the weekends and some health care processes may be less readily available over the weekend. Whilst it is thought that emergency admission to hospital on the weekend is associated with an increased risk of death, the extent to which this applies to elective admissions is less well known. We investigated the risk of death in elective and elective patients admitted over the weekend versus the weekdays.

Methods: Retrospective statistical analysis of routinely collected acute hospital admissions in England, involving all patient discharges from all acute hospitals in England over a year (April 2008-March 2009), using a logistic regression model which adjusted for a range of patient case-mix variables, seasonality and admission over a weekend separately for elective and emergency (but excluding zero day stay emergency admissions discharged alive) admissions.

Results: Of the 1,535,267 elective admissions, 91.7% (1,407,705) were admitted on the weekday and 8.3% (127,562) were admitted on the weekend. The mortality following weekday admission was 0.52% (7,276/1,407,705) compared with 0.77% (986/127,562) following weekend admission. Of the 3,105,249 emergency admissions, 76.3% (2,369,316) were admitted on the weekday and 23.7% (735,933) were admitted on the weekend. The mortality following emergency weekday admission was 6.53% (154,761/2,369,316) compared to 7.06% (51,922/735,933) following weekend admission. After case-mix adjustment, weekend admissions were associated with an increased risk of death, especially in the elective setting (elective Odds Ratio: 1.32, 95% Confidence Interval 1.23 to 1.41); vs emergency Odds Ratio: 1.09, 95% Confidence Interval 1.05 to 1.13).

Conclusions: Weekend admission appears to be an independent risk factor for dying in hospital and this risk is more pronounced in the elective setting. Given the planned nature of elective admissions, as opposed to the unplanned nature of emergency admissions, it would seem less likely that this increased risk in the elective setting is attributable to unobserved patient risk factors. Further work to understand the relationship between weekend processes of care and mortality, especially in the elective setting, is required.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • After-Hours Care* / statistics & numerical data
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Comorbidity
  • Diagnosis-Related Groups
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • England / epidemiology
  • Episode of Care
  • Female
  • Hospital Mortality* / trends
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Admission / statistics & numerical data*
  • Patient Discharge / statistics & numerical data
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment