PROPOSALS to introduce a ‘seven-day’ service in hospitals around the UK have been welcomed by bosses at Queen’s Hospital, who say it would ensure a better quality of care for patients.
Medical director Sir Bruce Keogh announced over the weekend his intention for a complete NHS service to run in hospitals during evenings and weekends, to tackle the increased amount of people who die in hospitals on Saturday and Sunday.
He blamed the issue on variable staffing rates, a lack of diagnostic services and a shortage of senior consultants to make decisions, and called for new standards to be put in place over the next few years to make sure it would no longer be an issue.
Craig Stenhouse, medical director for Burton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Queen’s Hospital, said he ‘welcomed’ the move to increase cover.
He added: “At the current time the trust has consultants working in hospital at the weekend and out of hours across a range of specialties.
“However, the trust recognises the importance of enhancing this senior cover for longer periods to ensure patients are reviewed by a senior clinician as early as possible to formulate appropriate care and clinical management plans.
“By providing enhanced senior cover, we will able to improve the experience and provide the best outcomes for our patients.”
The proposals have been put forward following a forum into seven-day working practices, which showed the risk of mortality increases by 11 per cent on a Saturday and 16 per cent on a Sunday.
There was also evidence of junior staff feeling unsupported whilst covering busy shifts over the weekend – something which was raised by the Keogh panel visited the trust earlier this year.
Sir Bruce said: “As the custodians of £97 billion of public money, we must buy the health services patients deserve. We know that patients and the public want us to act now to make seven-day services a reality in all parts of the NHS.
“There are encouraging examples for NHS organisations that have moved to making healthcare services more accessible seven days a week to avoid compromising safety and patient experience.
“We need to accelerate the pace and spread of these changes. In doing so, we can ensure the NHS leads the world in providing equality of access to consistent, high quality healthcare, seven days a week.”
He laid out a series of clinical standards which should be put in place at hospitals, to encourage the roll out of this new service.
These include: all admissions being seen by a consultant within 14 hours, continued access to diagnostic services and patients with mental health problems being seen within 24 hours.
Changes will also be made to primary and community care, to make sure patients are able to move to the next stage of their care in a timely way.
Dr David Dickson, secretary of South Staffordshire Local Medical Committee, which represents GPs in the area, said he did not think it would impact on GPs working hours at this stage.
He told the Mail: “This is more to do with emergency care. GPs are not contracted to provide weekend care, so it’s given mostly to the out-of-hours service or NHS 111.
“This could change, but this is something the Government will negotiate with the profession to see what is required.”
He added that it was important to ensure out-of-hours services were up to scratch to ensure people could use those rather than heading to the already-busy hospital – something supported by staff at Queen’s
Medical director Mr Stenhouse said: “We welcome the emphasis on care being available within primary care and the community so all patients are able to access appropriate medical input and healthcare without the need to attend hospital, if it can be avoided.”