‘Weekend Effect’ in NHS Patients Could Prompt More Clinical Negligence Claims

Sir Thomas Hughes-Hallett, leader of the group of chairmen currently running England’s top teaching hospitals, has warned that the UK government’s attempts to address the “Weekend Effect” in UK hospital patients are misinformed and underfunded, prompting concerns that care standards could fall and instances of medical negligence increase.

The “Weekend Effect” denotes the already concerning trend within the NHS whereby patients who fall ill on weekends have to wait longer for vital tests and procedures, leading to potentially higher instances of late diagnosis or misdiagnosis of conditions and potential delays in effective treatment. However, Blackwater Law have previously raised awareness of differences in survival rates following surgical procedures across different days of the week following an article in the British Medical Journal. You can read our previous comments in this article: Possible Increased Risk of Clinical Negligence on Certain Days of the Week.

‘Weekend Effect’ in NHS Could be Responsible for Thousands of Deaths

The weekend effect is already acknowledged by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to be causing more than 11,000 unnecessary patient deaths every year. Both Sir Hughes-Hallett and Jeremy Hunt have emphasised the need to tackle this problem at its source but clinical negligence solicitors at Blackwater Law are concerned that with every weekend that passes, more patients unnecessarily die.

UK Government & Sir Thomas Hughes-Hallett in Disagreement

Despite recognising the problem, there exists a fundamental disagreement between the UK government and Britain’s leading medical chairman on exactly how the situation is to be improved. Plans recently outlined by Mr Hunt MP focus on extending existing NHS care into the weekends, offering patients 24/7 service in a bid to curtail the Weekend Effect, and reduce the likelihood of clinical negligence occurring. Writing to fellow NHS chiefs in early October 2015 however, Sir Thomas insists there isn’t a “cat’s chance” of this happening, with hard-pressed and loyal NHS staff already struggling to meet existing duties. He argues that the UK government now faces a clear choice – either invest significantly more into the NHS or open up to the possibility of patients having to pay for more of its services. He also eludes to the notion of having to cut back on some of the more expensive treatments, and making greater use of volunteer staff – again raising questions as to the quality of care patients are likely to receive, and prompting concerns surrounding clinical negligence. His comments are thought to reflect a widespread, if not so openly acknowledged attitude within NHS trusts, which overspent by £930 million in the first three months of the 2015 financial year alone – more than the entire preceding year – prompting a situation described as “the worst in a generation”.

NHS Trusts Experiencing Unbearable Financial Burdens

Some trusts currently experiencing unbearable financial burdens have already introduced measures that may be hampering patients’ access to treatment, and some clinical negligence solicitors speculate this could already be contributing to instances of sub-standard care. Across the country for example, there have been many instances of A&E departments being closed (merged with other hospitals) or downgraded. Since 2010 this list includes, but is not limited to:

  • Hammersith, West London;
  • Trafford Hospital, Greater Manchester;
  • Chase Farm, North London
  • Central Middlesex Hospital, North London;
  • Wycombe Hospital, Buckinghamshire;
  • Queen Elizabeth II, Welwyn Garden City;
  • Cheltenham Hospital, Gloucestershire;
  • Newark Hospital, Nottinghamshire;
  • Maidstone Hospital, Kent; and
  • St Cross Hospital, Rugby.

If the NHS is already struggling to meet its current obligations towards patients, it seems clear that Sir Hughes-Hallett is correct to press the government for a more concrete source of funding in order to sustain current levels of care. A failure to provide such funding or to re-evaluate the NHS financial position could conceivably damage patient care standards across the board, and lead to more instances of medical negligence, giving rise to further increases in the amount of the number and value of clinical negligence compensation claims the NHS settles.

Our Thoughst on the ‘Weekend Effect’ in the NHS

Clinical negligence solicitor Jason Brady commented:

“No-one would like to feel that the day of the week on which they are admitted to hospital might dictate the level of care they receive, but this is seemingly the case, with significant and life-changing implications for individuals.

“The challenges facing the NHS are well documented, but these cannot be used as an excuse for significant variability in health service delivery, or in the worst cases, for instances of clinical negligence depending on which day of the week you fall ill”

How to Claim Clinical Negligence Compensation

If you have received poor care in a hospital, you may be entitled to clinical negligence compensation. Contact Blackwater Law solicitors today on 0800 083 5500 and get free initial advice from a specialist clinical negligence solicitor. All accepted cases are operated on a “no win, no fee” basis.