Warning on seven-day NHS proposals

A leading doctor has warned that proposals to move to a seven-day NHS working model are “not realistic” and would need more funding to be a success.

Full range of healthcare

NHS England medical director, Sir Bruce Keogh first put forward the idea of hospitals offering the full range of healthcare – including elective operations and diagnostic tests – across seven days in 2013.

Sir Bruce even suggested that hospital trusts could sign contracts to provide the extended healthcare and could be fined if they breach the conditions.

However, BMA council chairman Dr Mark Porter warned that such a move would only be a “diversion”, with extra services at the weekend resulting in them being cancelled during the week.

Dr Porter told The Guardian newspaper that more cash would be required to fund weekend changes, adding that it would not be possible to add a new service within existing budgets.

Citing what he described as the “inescapable reality” of healthcare, Dr Porter said that staging “half a dozen outpatient clinics on a Sunday afternoon” meant that they would not then be held on a particular day during the week.

The possibility of medical mistakes or negligence could also increase with such a sudden upturn in activity.

Higher mortality rate

The review carried out by Sir Bruce two years ago came in the aftermath of data which showed that there was a higher mortality rate at weekends.

An analysis in excess of 14 million hospital admissions  in 2009/10 showed that death rates on a Saturday could be as much as 11% greater while the figure for a Sunday could be 16% more.

In his review, Sir Bruce said that he considered it “strange” that hospitals should “start to wind down” on a Friday afternoon and that a seven-day NHS service should be a “number one priority”.

Estimates have stated that moving to a seven-day NHS operation could cost about £1 billion, including routine minor conditions surgery, blood tests, X-rays, ultrasounds and MRI scans.

A spokesman for the Department of Health said that a full-week NHS healthcare programme would result in both diagnosis and discharge times being cut.

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