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Evidence-based out-of-hours hospital medicine
  1. Gordon Arthur George McKenzie
  1. Department of Otolaryngology, Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, Castle Road, Cottingham, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Gordon Arthur George McKenzie, Department of Otolaryngology, Castle Hill Hospital, Cottingham HU16 5JQ, UK; gordon.mckenzie{at}


Out-of-hours (OOH) hospital ward cover is generally provided by junior doctors and is typified by heavy workloads, reduced staff numbers and various non-urgent nurse-initiated requests. The present inefficiencies and management problems with the OOH service are reflected by the high number of quality improvement projects recently published. In this narrative review, five common situations peculiar to the OOH general ward setting are discussed with reference to potential areas of inefficiency and unnecessary management steps: (1) prescription of hypnotics and sedatives; (2) overnight fluid therapy; (3) fever; (4) overnight hypotension and (5) chasing outstanding routine diagnostic tests. It is evident that research and consensus guidelines for many clinical situations in the OOH setting are a neglected arena. Many recommendations made herein are based on expert opinion or first principles. In contrast, the management of significant abnormalities in outstanding blood results is based on well-established guidelines using high-quality systematic reviews.

  • after-hours care
  • hypnotics and sedatives
  • fluid therapy
  • fever
  • diagnostic tests
  • routine

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  • Contributors GAGM was responsible for inception, drafting the manuscript and final editing.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.