Almost 70% of doctors believe that patients admitted to hospital at the weekend receive poorer care than those coming in during the week, according to a survey by Doctors.net.uk and Dr Foster Intelligence.
In fact, in its Hospital Guide 2013, Dr Foster outlines shocking findings that emergency overall mortality is 20% higher for weekend admissions, while death rates for patients having routine surgery is 24% higher if the operation is performed just before the weekend, indicating a huge drop in the quality of post-op care.
There is also a substantial drop in crucial diagnostic procedures over the weekend, with emergency imaging (MRI scans) and endoscopies on the day of admission 42% and 40% lower than in the week.
The findings echo those from a review of 14 hospital trusts in England last July, which NHS England's Sir Bruce Keogh said found the performance of the majority of the trusts inspected "was much worse than expected for their emergency patients, with admissions at the weekend and at night particularly problematic".
Dr Foster notes that, given the priority and attention the issue has received in recent months, strides in improving care have already been made, with many trusts having made significant improvements in weekend care provision. "But as our findings continue to show, there are some hospital trusts [eight in all] that need to urgently review care arrangements," it stressed.
Burden of drugs and alcohol
Elsewhere, data within the hospital guide show that drug and alcohol dependency is one of the biggest contributors to hospitalisation among middle-aged people and that, overall, it costs the NHS around £607 million a year (as reported by The Guardian).
Over the last three years, 500,000 people were hospitalised because of substance abuse, while 9% of admissions for emergency care were due to adults with a drug or alcohol problem.
In fact, people with a drug or alcohol problem accounted for nearly one-fifth (19%) of all emergency admissions among 40-44 year olds, marking the greatest proportion in any age group and a shift from just a decade ago, when the peak age was younger.
The report notes that public policy on drug and alcohol misuse has emphasised the dangers of binge drinking among the young and consuming above the recommended number of units. But serious alcohol and drug dependency among the middle aged has not received the same focus, despite it representing one of the biggest burdens on the health system in terms of blocking hospital beds.
"The increase in hospital admissions of middle-aged people dictates the need for changes across the health and care system including how we respond to people in crisis", said Lord Victor Adebowale, chief executive of Turning Point.
"The challenge set to the health service by these figures is to consider the costs associated with substance misuse and how investment across health, social care and public health initiatives can address the barriers currently preventing people getting the support they need".