Heart attack victims admitted to hospital at the weekend are no more likely to die than those admitted on a weekday, according to new research.
It is thanks to specialist cardiac arrest teams who are on duty 24/7, say medical experts.
Survival rates in hospital have been generally much lower for people who fall ill on a Saturday or Sunday because of the ‘weekend effect’ of a skeleton staff.
But a study of almost 5,000 patients at NHS hospitals found this was not the case for cardiac arrest.
By following them for up to five years the British team showed there were no differences in survival for those admitted at the weekend.
Lead author Dr Rahul Potluri, clinical lecturer in cardiology at Aston Medical School in Birmingham, said: “No matter which day of the week someone goes to hospital with a cardiac arrest, they have the same chance of survival, and that should be hugely reassuring to the public.
“By no means is the weekend effect a blanket phenomenon. We know that it does exist for people affected by other heart conditions.
“It is therefore important to tease out who is affected by the weekend effect through research in order to ensure that specialist healthcare services are delivered when and where they are needed most.”
The study, presented at a British Cardiovascular Society (BCS) conference in Manchester, involved more than 4,800 patients.
It accounted for other death rate factors such as age, gender, ethnic group, and the most common causes of death in the UK.
A cardiac arrest is when an electrical fault in the heart occurs, causing it to suddenly stop pumping blood around the body.
The chances of surviving one that happens outside a hospital are around 1 in 10. But with swiftly-administered CPR and the use of a defibrillator, a huge difference can be made.
The finding follows work presented at an earlier BCS meeting suggesting there is a ‘weekend effect’ in people going to hospital with heart failure or atrial fibrillation – the most common type of abnormal heart rhythm.
So the presence of cardiac arrest teams working 24 hours a day, all year round, could be responsible for these better results.
It means heart attack patients get the same standard of care and outcome whether they are being treated in the week or at the weekend.
Professor Metin Avkiran, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: “This is a success story, and shows the life saving importance of specialist teams working in the NHS.
“A cardiac arrest is a medical emergency and statistics show that for every minute that passes without CPR and defibrillation, a person’s chance of survival decreases by around 10 per cent.
“If you see someone who has suddenly collapsed and is unresponsive, it is vital that you call 999 and start administering CPR immediately to increase their chances of survival. When the emergency services arrive, you can rest assured that you’ve done your bit and the specialists are ready and waiting to take over.”
Co-author Dr Shajil Chalil, consultant cardiologist at Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “You can’t choose when you’re struck down by a devastating cardiac arrest.
“But our research potentially highlights the major value of cardiac arrest teams in hospitals set-up to ensure optimal care for these heart patients every minute of every day.”