If you're going to get sick try to avoid hospital at the weekend

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The best time to go to hospital might not be the weekend. Researchers have found a heightened risk of death following Saturday or Sunday admissions.

At Australian hospitals, the researchers found no higher risk of death within 30 days of admission but a “weekend effect” became apparent only seven days later.

The study, published in the journal BMJ Quality & Safety, looked at data on almost 3 million admissions between 2009 and 2012 from 28 metropolitan teaching hospitals in England, Australia, the US and The Netherlands.

They focused on deaths in hospital within 30 days of an emergency admission or planned surgery.

The risk of dying within 30 days was higher for emergency admissions at weekends at hospitals in three out of the four countries.

This risk was 8% higher in 11 hospitals in England, 13% higher in five of the US hospitals and 20% higher in six Dutch hospitals.

All patients admitted at the weekend for planned surgery were more likely to die within 30 days than those admitted on other days of the week.

“Although these results are limited to the small number of participating hospitals, the international nature of our database suggests that this is a systematic phenomenon affecting healthcare providers across borders,” the researchers write.

The researchers speculate on the reasons for the findings, saying no one single factor appears responsible.

They say certain surgical procedures may be sensitive to reduced access to test results and diagnostics at weekends.

And there might be fewer and less experienced staff at the weekend, meaning patients needing urgent care may have to wait longer.

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