NHS England medical director Sir Bruce Keogh will shortly publish research showing a ‘weekend effect’ in NHS services including higher mortality, he told MPs today.

Appearing at the Commons health committee today, Sir Bruce said he had been asked to revisit research on mortality rates for patients at weekends by the organisation’s chief executive, Simon Stevens, who also answered questions from the committee today.

Bruce Keogh

Sir Bruce said ‘there was pretty clear evidence of a weekend effect’

Sir Bruce said his work was due to be published soon but told MPs it would support previous research showing there was higher mortality at weekends.

His earlier work has been largely cited by the government as justification for seeking to change medical consultant contracts to try and improve the provision of seven day services.

He told MPs the research showed patient mortality increased by 10 per cent compared to a weekday for those admitted on a Saturday, and by 15 per cent for those admitted on a Sunday.

Sir Bruce also said “there was pretty clear evidence of a weekend effect” starting on Friday and carrying on into Monday. He said there was a 2 per cent rise in mortality for patients admitted on a Friday and a 5 per cent increase for those admitted on a Monday.

The proportion of “high harm incidents” reported on a weekend was also higher, he said, but he did not give a figure.

He also said there was a 30 per cent higher rate of surgery cases converting from closed or keyhole surgery to open surgery at weekends compared to during the week.

Sir Bruce said the research would also consider the sickness of patients admitted at weekends, and would show the number of patients in the “sickest quintile” was 25 per cent higher on a Saturday and 35 per cent higher on a Sunday compared to weekdays.

However, Sir Bruce said the study adjusted for this higher rate of sickness among weekend patients, adding: “It reduces the mortality [difference] but it doesn’t explain it entirely.”