/22 December 2012
Discussions within the NHS may lead to seven day a week surgery and screening procedures such as scans. However as might be expected there is no consensus among practitioners this is the right approach.
There has been concern admitting people at weekends
under the current regime can mean a delay of two days before patients see a doctor. The measures are being spearheaded by the new NHS Commissioning Board which takes over control of the NHS from April 2013. The Board will oversee the NHS budget and set priorities.
In the recent years there has been a drive to reduce costs within the NHS whilst improving patient outcomes. Yet research by University College London shows that patients are 16% more likely to die if they are admitted on Sunday than mid-week. Other evidence supporting a link between availability of services and outcomes comes from North America.
There has been a longstanding feeling in some quarters that hospital working practices are organised for the convenience of staff rather than patients. The new plans take patient convenience as their starting point. Currently at weekends, patients can end up in A&E which may not be the right clinical setting for their condition.
Delays in screening –such as the availability of X-rays may be a contributing factor in poorer outcomes for patients admitted at weekends.
The proposals could also be extended to GP services.
It’s well known that flexible working practices are commonplace in other sectors. Sir Bruce Keogh, medical director of the new NHS Commissioning Board said he believed the NHS has to learn from private sector companies such as Tesco: the NHS should be able to offer best in class customer service by putting patients in the driving seat.
However it is thought that doctors won’t be forced to work weekends but rather incentives would be put in place.
The new NHS Commissioning Board will initially look at the barriers to seven day a week operations. Day surgery and outpatients services will be the first areas to be examined.