NHS group to consider weekend services

Surgeons performing an operation The group will consider whether services, such as routine surgery and scans, can be provided seven days a week

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A group is to be set up to examine why the NHS in England cannot provide some routine services at weekends - like day surgery - the BBC understands.

The NHS Commissioning Board is due to announce the move on Tuesday, when it publishes its planning guidance for the NHS for the first time.

The group will include patient representatives, health providers and people from outside the health service.

The government said it "fully supported" a seven-day service.

The health minister, Lord Howe, said patients needed the NHS "every day".

"Offering easier access to hospital consultants, GPs and routine hospital services seven days a week will reduce delays and ensure that patients get seen and treated by experienced healthcare professionals," he said.

The British Medical association said it was "open to discussion" about the changes.

The setting up of the group follows research that suggests patients are more likely to die if they are admitted to hospital over the weekend.

Start Quote

This will be a big cultural change, but our focus should be on convenience and compassion for those seeking our help.”

End Quote Sir Bruce Keogh NHS Commissioning Board

Board medical director Sir Bruce Keogh told the BBC the new group would look at "the barriers that stop us heading in the direction of a seven-day service."

'Moral case'

He said the new group would "invariably have to look at terms and conditions [of hospital staff] and see what incentives there might be". But he stressed that "this is not about forcing people".

"I am just trying to build a practical, moral and compassionate case on behalf of patients.

"You have got to get people to believe in the moral case," he said.

Sir Bruce added: "It is time for the NHS to offer more routine services at the weekend, in addition to emergency services. This will be a big cultural change, but our focus should be on convenience and compassion for those seeking our help."

He also said the focus of the new NHS Commissioning Board - which was set up under the government's re-organisation of the health service - is to be patient focused, and that that was why he was setting up the group.

Our political reporter, Susana Mendonca, says Sir Bruce has long been a supporter of the idea that patients would be better served if routine services - like scans - were available at weekends.

Research suggests that patients are more likely to die in hospital if they are admitted at the weekend.

Earlier this year, research, carried out at University College London and the universities of Birmingham and East Anglia, was published showing patients in England were 16% more likely to die if they were admitted on a Sunday, rather than mid-week.

Staffing - and in particular the presence, or absence, of senior doctors - has been highlighted as a key factor.

The Department of Health said some hospitals were already thinking about treating patients at weekends for non-urgent operations and procedures.

For example, in Birmingham and Torbay, hospitals have had scanners open to provide tests over the weekend, as well as operations being carried out.

They also have more more senior staff and consultants around at weekends.

Responding to Sir Bruce's comment, the British Medical Association - which represents doctors - said it was "open to discussions on ways of further improving the service patients receive at evenings and weekends".

"Flexibility will be key - solutions that work for one specialty may not work for others," a spokesman said.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    As a part half time GP working 30+ hours a week with some days lasting from 8am-8pm.
    more than 50% of newly qualified doctors are women, the rest are also likely to have families. Many other hospital staff are also parents. With school being monday to friday if we work week ends who cares for our children, or by working for the health service do we give up our right to a family life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    People get taken ill at any time on any day so the NHS should provide the same standard of service 24/7. The extra cost of shift work should be paid for by an 'NHS tax' on banks and bankers. They've caused such misery to the population it's time they helped to lessen suffering, instead of still paying themselves bonuses on the back of our money and dreaming up more trickster schemes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    My mother had to spend a weekend in hospital because the test she needed was not available until Monday. The ward on reduced weekend staff failed to do a fall risk and placed her a distance from the loos. On Sunday she fell and broke her femur and spent the next 14 weeks in hospital. She is now housebound. I'm sure thousands have stories like this. All preventable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    The situation is unacceptable. First, medical staff must learn that the NHS is not there to provide them with jobs (and in the case of doctors considerably overpaid ones, due to ruthless use of Trade Union power). The second thing doctors in particular should try to grasp is that the population is not capable of timing its sickness to occur during the hours of 8am to 6pm Mondays to Fridays.

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    Tanglewood 22

    Your comments are offensive. Guess what, people are taken ill at the weekends through no fault of their own. My husband had an operation, was discharged on Friday, hospital didn't want patients in at weekend , and the wound went septic on Saturday. No GP available, NHS Direct sent us back to hospital. Please don't get seriously ill at the weekend.

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    My wife is a senior nurse at a major London teaching Hospital and worked permanent night duty rotas for the last 20 Years until last year when she was deployed onto days following reorganisation .

    She was One of Only 2 senior nurses so employed Now there are none .There are over 100 members of staff on or above Her pay grade working Monday to Friday 9-5 .

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    Another mad idea..We will all soon be in a 24/7 society where no one gets time off and we all die by 40. Solves all the problems...by the way, politicians are exempt!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    And why stop with hospitals - why not have a shift system for GP surgeries so that people can get to see their own highly paid doctors 7 days a week - instead of the hopeless system that currently operates in which people have to call out a stranger who then has to travel miles to get to a patient for whom they have no notes and can only tell the patient to "go to their GP on Monday".

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    A lot of AHPs such as physios and OT's already cover seven day service. I agree that 24 hr services like chest physio, SALT and imaging professionals will help prevent deaths due to low staffing. But not sure 24 7 PHYSIO outpatient cover for example will be of much benefit. ie, pointless then saying 'nurses and drs do 24 7 with shifts, so should all the AHPS'!

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    When the papers have been shuffled and after countless consultations the conclusion wil be...

    Yes, we can provide 24/7 operations, unfortunately everyone will now have to pay for all treatment and/or take out medical insurance. Can't afford it? Please die quietly in the corner and don't make a fuss.

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    What nonsense to say more staff will be required. As you'll be seeing less people during the week it will make little to no difference, any extra hours would be taken up via overtime pay which is far far cheaper than hiring more staff anyway. The problem is the NHS is one of the last sections of the public sector (and police) who refuse to enter the 21st century. GPs should work 24/7 too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    For the supporters of private commerce/ignorant: Nurses already work 24/7.
    Don't worry, soon the tory plan will be complete and very few will have access to healthcare, period. I await your squeals of delight.

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    Bladesman-did you think your comment through? 40 hrs a week Monday to Friday,change the pattern and it's still 40 hrs a week!! EG 12 staff 6-2,or 6 staff 6-2 and 6 staff 2-10, or maybe 3 staff 6-2, 2-10,and 10-6 and thats still only 5 days out of 7.As a Border Force officer at a port on a 24/7 shift I know-if you need to cover more hours,you need more staff,or accept less staff on duty per shift.

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    My local Doctors is a joke, I've not been able to see my own GP in the last two years due to either long waiting times for an appointment (by which I'm fine anyway) or because I can't afford to take time off of work. Just another example of how hard working people working Monday to Friday 9-5 put into the system and receive little back. Absolute joke.

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    It is high time that the NHS is run like a business. Why can GPs and consultants not work shifts just like engineers at power stations and those working in the car industry, on oil rigs and other important industries? Why do I need to take time off work to see my GP during the day because he goes home at 5 p.m and doesn't work evenings or weekends but draws a huge salary?

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    The days when you could ring your surgery and be sure of getting an appointment on the day are over; except perhaps for a lucky few.

    Home visits? Forget it! Either get well on your own or call an ambulance and risk being branded one of the 'worried well'.

    Sort out the week days first and the out of hours, then worry about weekends.

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    The NHS & all public services in the UK suffer from the fact all of us irrespective of political belief think they are as much to provide employment as the service they purport to offer. Users become of secondary importance to the 'providers' and their needs. Many private organisation employees at all levels are the same. We are just not very good at service in the UK compared with say the USA.

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    Not rocket science. People are ill 24/7. Investiagtions and treatment needs to be avialble 24/7. To deliver an extra 48 hours of cover will need more doctors and nurses - NOT administrators. Better health will reduce time off work so spend on NHS will benefit the economy as a whole. Reduce NHS admin staff.

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    Perhaps it would be more pertinent to focus on the NHS struggling to provide services any day of the week, let alone weekends, amidst swingeing budget cuts.
    If you believe the political rhetoric from govt about their funding of the NHS then ask yourself why trusts countrywide are having 20% budget reductions? Why they're shedding clinical jobs?

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    Boris Roach
    Unless its you with the life threatening illness at 7pm on a sunday evening...
    But that is what A&E is for. This debate is about 7 day routine surgery. Something that will end up costing us more.

    As for the missed appointments adding to the delay. As so many occur on Mondays, maybe it's time that hospitals closed on a Monday. That'll solve that problem and save money too!


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