‘BMA playing with fire’ over 7-day working


THE BMA yesterday published a paper on seven-day services which supports calls for more NHS services to be available for patients throughout the week.

Commenting on the publication of the paper, Dr Mark Porter Chair of BMA Council said: ‘Patients should have greater access to high quality care throughout the week and doctors should be part of the solution when it comes to identifying how the NHS can achieve this.

‘There is much work to be done on determining a model for seven-day services, especially around the practical and financial implications for the NHS and for doctors’ working patterns.

‘The BMA is committed to playing a key role in addressing the system-wide change this will require.

‘We are already in negotiations with the government on how to develop working patterns which meet patient demand and deliver greater consultant presence at weekends, while safeguarding the need for a healthy work-life balance.

‘Given the NHS has finite resources, we have to look at what services can be provided within the existing workforce and budget.’

Anna Athow, BMA member, commented: ‘Consultants currently work a five-day working week for basic pay and receive a small on-call supplement for covering, and coming in, on nights and weekends.

‘At most hospitals regular scheduled routine elective work such as outpatients and operating lists is not done at out-of-hours, as it would command time-and-a-third.

‘Junior doctor cover at nights and weekends has been constantly reduced by successive governments.

‘Now suddenly, the government is jumping up and down about not enough cover out-of-hours for emergencies Why? Because they want hospitals run by private companies like Tesco.

‘Private companies want elective routine outpatients and operating lists performed out of hours including weekends to “sweat assets”.

‘“Seven-day working” really means shift work over seven days at basic rates, with no overtime.’

She said: ‘In my view, the BMA’s position is playing with fire.

‘The BMA position paper does not bring out clearly the motives for the proposed changes, or precisely what they mean.

‘The danger is that by allowing the current contracts to be torn up in the name of improved emergency care, doctors could end up being ruthlessly exploited for seven-day elective work to make profits for the incoming private providers.

‘Likewise for GPs.’