Everything, everywhere, and all the time. But can we expect a seven-day-a-week NHS?

We are increasingly living in a world of instant gratification, where we can expect access to services, products and information anywhere and at any time. But when we look at healthcare related services, should we be expecting the same?

By Phoebe Blossom

We are increasingly living in a world of instant gratification, where we can expect access to services, products and information anywhere and at any time. But when we look at healthcare related services, should we be expecting the same?

It’s a well-known fact that the NHS in the UK is in trouble financially with worries over long hours for hospital staff, and low morale. So are the proposals from Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt for a seven-day-a-week NHS feasible?

Mr Hunt is adamant that hospital doctors in particular should be required to work weekends, and that a ‘Monday to Friday’ culture has had a detrimental effect on the quality of care of patients including approximately 6,000 avoidable deaths in the UK each year. Indeed, research from three years ago published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine suggested that death rates were higher for weekend hospital admissions[i].

Dr Mark Porter, Head of the British Medical Association, says that doctors support an improved seven day service, but that there are several other factors involved than just consultant weekend working. If Mr Hunt enforces contract changes where consultants are required to work weekends, will that mean less consultants available during the week?

Delivering a speech this week at the Kings Fund, Mr Hunt set out his 25-year vision for the NHS. As well as highlighting the need for a seven day service for the NHS he emphasised a continued focus on safety and quality of care, as well as transparency, with the goal to make the NHS the world’s largest learning organisation, reforming the NHS from the inside out.  

Mr Hunt also highlighted the important role that digital technology would play, giving more power to the patient. He highlighted new devices that could monitor patients through their mobile phones, triggering ambulances to be dispatched to patients at risk of an imminent heart attack.

The big question is of course how the government is proposing to pay for all this. Critics say that the additional £8 billion pledged by the government for the NHS by 2020 will barely maintain existing standards of care. In a world of continued digital innovations and a more personalised level of service will the NHS be able to keep up?



[i] Freemantle et al. Weekend hospitalization and additional risk of death: An analysis of inpatient data. J R Soc Med. 2012 Feb; 105(2): 74–84

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