Wednesday, December 7

Doctors worry as Government dithers on 7 day NHS



Veteran health campaigner Myra Garrett joins Mayor Lutfur Rahman and Councillors Abjol Miah and Oli Rahman on last year’s “Save our Surgeries” demonstration.

One of the talking points in this year’s General Election were previously released figures which showed that death rates were higher in hospitals at the weekend than during the week. This difference could be explained by clinical factors. Hospital populations are smaller at the weekend, as routine and minor operations are not scheduled then and patients who came in on a planned basis earlier in the week are sent home. This means that very ill patients and patients admitted to A&E and pass away at the weekend represent a high percentage of the hospital population on Saturdays and Sundays than on other days.

Another thing which happens at weekends is that fewer NHS staff are at work. It is still the case that most of us expect to work Monday to Friday and to have the weekend off. There are some jobs which require weekend working, such as those in the care, retail and hospitality sectors – but these are still different from the norm, specifically requiring “weekend working” rather than treating all seven days of the week as the same.

At the General Election, David Cameron chose to attack the former without considering the latter. He promised a seven day a week NHS, so that you could get the same level of treatment any day. He was asked how the NHS would afford this – and he said that, obviously, extra money would have to be made available to fund extra doctors.

However, it’s not just extra doctors who would be needed. If appointments were scheduled across seven days a week, hospitals would need their whole workforce to be present seven days a week: consultants, doctors, anaesthetists, radiographers, nurses, domestics, receptionists, clerks, cooks, porters, managers, etc. Either current staff would have to increase their hours (unrealistic), or new staff would have to be recruited (unrealistic – not least because so many would have to be trained before they could take up work).