Jan 25 2013 By Jackie Grant
Emergency patients admitted to Dumfries Infirmary on public holidays are much more likely to die than at any other time.
Researchers made the shocking discovery after studying more than 20,000 cases over three years at the hospital.
They found that patients admitted as medical emergencies on public holidays were 48 per cent more likely to die within seven days and 27 per cent more likely to do so within 30 days.
Dumfries and Galloway MP Russell Brown described the figures as “hugely worrying”.
He said: “Whenever you are admitted to hospital you should receive the highest possible quality of care. The NHS should be a 24 hours a day, seven days a week service.
“Staff at the infirmary do a fantastic job but NHS Dumfries and Galloway has to ensure that they have the right level of staffing and expertise on duty whether it is a holiday or not.”
He added: “We need to know exactly what actions they plan to take and there needs to be a follow up report that shows there has been an improvement in the level of care provided.”
The report, published in the Emergency Medical Journey this week, revealed that 3.8 per cent of patients admitted as emergencies to DGRI died within seven days and 8.9 per cent died within 30 days.
But of those admitted on a public holiday, 5.8 per cent died within a week, and 11.3 per cent passed away within 30 days.
A previous health study found that patients were 16 per cent more likely to die if they were admitted on a Sunday than mid-week.
And the latest research sought to establish if similar patterns were evident for patients admitted on holidays. It looked at 20,072 admissions at Dumfries Infirmary between January 2008 and December 2010.
The researchers noted: “If we assume that patients with severe illnesses are no more likely to be admitted on any one day of the week than any other, then it becomes difficult to escape the view that a cumulative effect of lack of services and/or lack of doctors on public holidays must have a part to play in the higher public holiday mortality demonstrated in this study.”
A health board spokesman said: “In common with other Scottish health boards, we review appropriate clinical staffing levels to ensure safe service provision.
“NHS Dumfries and Galloway is also actively engaged in the Scottish Patient Safety Programme which has delivered significant improvements in outcomes for hospital inpatients. In particular, NHS Dumfries and Galloway has achieved a 15.8 per cent reduction in standardised hospital mortality since 2008.
“We know that there are differences in the case mix of patients admitted at weekends and holidays but the report does not suggest that these alone are sufficient to explain fully the increased mortality rate. We will therefore re-examine preparations for the long bank holiday weekends to ensure best use of our resource.”