The magnitude and mechanisms of the weekend effect in hospital admissions: A protocol for a mixed methods review incorporating a systematic review and framework synthesis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


  • HiSLAC Collaborative

Colleges, School and Institutes



Growing literature has demonstrated that patients admitted to hospital during weekends tend to have less favourable outcomes, including increased mortality, compared with similar patients admitted during weekdays. Major policy interventions such as the 7-day services programme in the UK NHS have been initiated to reduce this weekend effect, although the mechanisms behind the effect are unclear. Here, we propose a mixed methods review to systematically examine the literature surrounding the magnitude and mechanisms of the weekend effect.

MEDLINE, CINAHL, HMIC, EMBASE, EthOS, CPCI and the Cochrane Library were searched from Jan 2000 to April 2015 using terms related to ‘weekends or out-of-hours’ and ‘hospital admissions’. The 5404 retrieved records were screened by the review team, and will feed into two component reviews: a systematic review of the magnitude of the weekend effect and a framework synthesis of the mechanisms of the weekend effect. A repeat search of MEDLINE will be conducted mid-2016 to update both component reviews. The systematic review will include quantitative studies of non-specific hospital admissions. The primary outcome is the weekend effect on mortality, which will be estimated using a Bayesian random effects meta-analysis. Weekend effects on adverse events, length of hospital stay and patient experience will also be examined. The development of the framework synthesis has been informed by the initial scoping of the literature and focus group discussions. The synthesis will examine both quantitative and qualitative studies that have compared the processes and quality of care between weekends and weekdays, and explicate the underlying mechanisms of the weekend effect.

The weekend effect is a complex phenomenon that has major implications for the organisation of health services. Its magnitude and underlying mechanisms have been subject to heated debate. Published literature reviews have adopted restricted scopes or methods and mainly focused on quantitative evidence. This proposed review intends to provide a comprehensive and in-depth synthesis of diverse evidence to inform future policy and research aiming to address the weekend effect.


Original languageEnglish
Article number84
JournalSystematic Reviews
Early online date21 May 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 May 2016


  • Weekend , Mortality , Hospital admission, Hospitalization , Secondary care, Delivery of health care, Health services research , Health care evaluation mechanisms, Quality of health care, Risk adjustment