Sudden death of the ‘weekend effect’

One of the key planks in the government's propaganda offensive against junior doctors has been exposed as a total nonsense.

Proletarian writers

Proletarian writers

A new Oxford University paper has revealed that hospital data used to ‘prove’ that death rates are higher for those admitted to hospital at the weekend (the so-called ‘weekend effect’, which featured so heavily in Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s propaganda war against the junior doctors) were completely flawed.

The original Oxford Vascular Study, based on hospital admissions for over 90,000 patients in Oxfordshire for stroke, muddled up patients admitted for stroke with patients admitted for other routine weekday procedures.

Unsurprisingly, the death rates for stroke patients admitted at weekends were higher than death rates for weekday admissions where stroke cases were mixed up with less acute cases. The new study found that more than a third of admissions registered as stroke victims were in fact for routine procedures.

In short, all that the original survey really proved is that very ill people are generally more likely to die than less ill people. (Junior doctors’ contracts: fresh talks under way by Adam Brimelow, BBC News, 9 May 2016)

What is clear as day, even without an Oxford research paper, is that hospitals staffed by overworked, underpaid and demotivated health workers are not going to be good places to stay if you have the misfortune to get sick.

By failing to seize the junior doctors’ fight as the focus for a class-wide mobilisation in defence of the NHS, the trade union movement has helped ease the way for the next stage of the dismantling of the welfare state.