Hospital Dr News

BMA urges Prime Minister to outline plans for seven day service at party conference

David Cameron must use his Conservative Party speech to further set out his plans to staff and fund the introduction of the world’s first ‘truly seven-day NHS’ if they are to become a reality.

This is the message from the BMA, which has repeatedly called on the government to outline their full plans.

In August, the BMA published seven questions in national newspapers challenging David Cameron to set out the detail of his plans.

So far the government has answered just the one. In responding to a series of parliamentary questions, ministers outlined a definition of seven-day services for the first time, confirming that their plans are focussed on the delivery of urgent and emergency care.

The BMA is publishing a new advertisement calling on David Cameron to use his party conference to answer the remaining six questions. It is vital that he provides the detail needed as to how seven-day services will be staffed and funded given the shortage of doctors in many parts of the NHS and the extreme funding pressures facing many trusts.

Last month new research found that less than half of hospital trusts in England had begun work to scope rolling out seven-day services, with a number reporting the need for millions more in funding and a dramatic increase in the number of consultants.

Dr Mark Porter, BMA council chair, said: “David Cameron has been clear that he wants to introduce the world’s first truly seven-day NHS but less clear about how he intends to staff and pay for it.

“Last month the BMA published seven questions for David Cameron to answer about his plans. Many doctors will be pleased that as a result the prime minister outlined his definition of a seven-day NHS, and that his focus on emergency and urgent care matches echoes the calls made by the BMA for a number of years.

“However, there remains a number of unanswered questions and with hospital trusts facing enormous staffing and funding pressures this is simply unacceptable. Given the current funding squeeze on NHS Trusts, the only way for many hospitals to increase the number of doctors over the weekend would be to reduce the number of doctors providing elective care during the week.

“It is simply not going to work if the government expects hospitals to stretch the work currently done Monday to Friday over seven days. The fact that hospitals preparing for the introduction of seven-day services require dramatic increases in senior doctors exposes the potential risks to patient care of rushing to make changes with the necessary plans and resourcing in place.

“It is vital that the prime minister is honest with the public about how he expects to pay and staff a truly seven-day NHS. It is not just doctors wanting answers. A recent public survey showed that two thirds of respondents do not believe the NHS can currently afford seven-day services in hospitals, while three quarters do not want to see a reduction in mid-week services.”

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