Lesson of the day: Don’t have surgery on a Friday

Patients who have surgery on a Friday or over the weekend are significantly more likely to die than those who undertake it on a Monday, alarming new research has discovered.

The Imperial College research, which was published on the British Medical Journal website, found the risk of death within 30 days of a planned operation increased every day after Monday.

Procedures conducted on a Friday were 44% more likely to end in death than if conducted on a Monday, and those on a weekend were a staggering 82% higher.

The findings suggest patients are suffering as a result of a lack of experienced doctors working over the weekend.

Of those who had surgery on a Monday, 5.5 died per 1,000 hospital admissions – but that figure rose to 6.2 on Tuesdays, 6.7 on Wednesdays, 7.0 on Thursdays and 8.2 for Fridays. When adjusted for case mix, the rise equates to 44%.

The same rough trend holds true even in low-risk procedures, with 1.8 deaths per 1,000 admissions on a Monday, but 2.4 on a Friday.

The first 48 hours after surgery are critical to a patient's chances of recovery, suggesting that the lack of experienced consultants and less access to diagnostic tools play a key role in the findings.