The BMA has renewed its criticism of the government for a lack of detail on how it intends to deliver the expansion of seven-day services.
It follows the re-engagement of the union and NHS Employers in eleventh hour talks on the consutlant contract a head of 11 September deadline.
Removing the ‘opt out’ on the current consultant contract for providing non-emergency out of hours care remains the government’s contract priority.
Dr Mark Porter, chair of BMA council, accused the government of high on rhetoric but low on detail about seven-day services over an extended period.
Porter said: “The prime minister said in May he wanted a ‘truly seven-day NHS’, but without a word then or since on how this service – the first such in the world – would be staffed, funded or where the necessary support services would be found. Last month, the health secretary Jeremy Hunt repeated the mantra, in the same breath accusing the BMA of being a ‘roadblock’ to reform.
“A roadblock to what exactly? Never has a policy been launched with such a breathtaking lack of detail. When I pointed out in a radio interview last month that it wasn’t possible simply to stretch existing staff over seven days, the secretary of state even said I was ‘absolutely right’. In the same interview, he acknowledged that seven-day diagnostic tests would be needed, but has given no clue where the extra staff and funding will come from.”
The BMA also criticised the government’s “inaccurate, demoralising and destructive attacks on doctors”.
“As thousands of us work in NHS hospitals at weekends, we’ve had to stomach the irony of weekend newspapers full of stories about doctors supposedly shirking our responsibilities. This, of course, is intended to distract the public from the lack of detail or any plan to deliver the expanded service. But – for doctors and the patients for whom we care – it’s time for answers, not insults,” he said.
This week the union is launching a campaign – among doctors and the public – to urge the government to reveal its detailed plans for a seven-day service, including the implications for funding, staff, the impact on services and on patients.
Independent researchers have concluded that the cost of implementing seven-day services far exceeds the maximum threshold that NICE would recommend the NHS be prepared to spend on eradicating any weekend effect, the BMA says.
In its recent review of the consultant contract, the pay review body said that without evidence of efficiency or productivity gains from introducing seven-day services, ‘it is not clear to us that this change could be implemented without further resource’.
To raise pressure on the government, Porter asked doctors to add their name to a list and tweet their support using #showusthe7dayplan.
Porter said: “We have been quite clear – we support the same high standards for patients needing acute, emergency and urgent care seven days a week. The context is also clear. The NHS has never been resourced at weekends to the extent that it is during the week, and the service overall is facing dire financial pressures. So where’s the plan to square this circle?”