Suspending weekend hospital services does not hurt patient outcomes, study finds

Eliminating allied health services — such as speech therapy or dietetics — from hospitals on the weekends does not influence patient outcomes, suggests a study published in PLOS Medicine.

For the study, researchers conducted two clinical trials from February 2014 to March 2015, involving nearly 15,000 patients from 12 medical or surgical wards at two hospitals in Melbourne, Australia.

Researchers gradually removed all weekend allied health services from the medical wards before introducing redeveloped versions of the services based on feedback from physicians, nurses and allied health staff.

Removal of the allied health services did not affect how much time patients spent at the hospital or threaten patient safety, according to the researchers. Re-establishing updated versions of the health services did not influence patient outcomes, either. Patients actually stayed slightly longer and had more adverse events when weekend allied care was in effect.

"There is some evidence from randomized trials available that allied health services delivered on rehabilitation wards can be effective for improving health outcomes and reducing the length of stay," lead author Terry Haines, of Monash University in Victoria, Australia, told Reuters. "It could be a simple case of moving allied health resources from the acute medical and surgical wards over to the rehabilitation wards."

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