Patients discharged from hospital during the Christmas period have a higher risk of death and readmission within 30 days, finds a study published in the Christmas issue of the BMJ.
Researchers in Canada analysed 217,305 cases of adults and children discharged from hospitals during the two-week December holiday period, between 2002 and 2016. This was compared with 453,641 cases of patients discharged during control periods in late November and January.
The study found that patients discharged during the Christmas period had a higher risk of death and readmission within the next seven, 14 and 30 days, with the greatest risk being within the first week (16%). Per 100,000 patients, 26 more deaths, 188 excess re-hospitalisations, 483 extra emergency department visits and 2,999 fewer follow-ups were associated with being discharged during the holiday.
Interestingly, patients with a higher baseline risk had a lower holiday-related risk of readmission and death than those with a lower baseline risk. The authors suggest this could be due to clinicians prioritising higher risk patients in the setting of reduced resources.
The authors say the findings highlight the need for doctors to pay attention to discharge planning and coordination of care during the festive period.