NHS is not Tesco! – no to seven-day working

A section of the huge TUC march on October 20 through London against the Coalition’s attacks
A section of the huge TUC march on October 20 through London against the Coalition’s attacks

The NHS Commissioning Board will announce compulsory seven-day working in the NHS when it publishes its ‘planning guidance’ for the NHS for the first time today.

The Tory-LibDem Coalition has said it ‘fully supports’ a seven-day service, but the BMA insisted: ‘The NHS is not Tesco’.

The NHS Commissioning Board has been set up under the Health and Social Care Act to preside over the privatisation of the NHS.

Sir Bruce Keogh, Medical Director of the Health Commissioning Board, which determines how health service funds are spent, warned that he is targeting the terms and conditions of NHS workers.

He said yesterday: ‘If you wanted a day case operation, and you didn’t want to take a day off work, why can’t you have it on a Saturday or Sunday?

‘If you are an elderly person who struggles to get to the hospital, why does your niece, nephew, son or daughter have to take a day or a halfday off work to take you to and from the hospital for the convenience of the people who are running it?

‘It seems strange in a way that you cannot go to a clinic at the weekend, you cannot have your day case surgery at the weekend when the rest of the commercial world is going in a different direction.

‘Tesco have had to go through this – it was a complex issue for them.

‘As we think this through, we will need to look at the terms and conditions of service of people – employment conditions.’

Weekend closures of theatres and clinics were a waste of NHS funds, he said: ‘We have got outpatient departments that are empty, operating theatres that lie fallow.’

A spokeswoman for the British Medical Association responded: ‘The NHS is not Tesco. Dealing with people’s health is far more complex than selling boxes of cornflakes or other products.

‘We have been discussing this for some time. As doctors, of course we want to improve services we offer patients but there has to be investment in resources that underpin that.’

Meanwhile, it emerged yesterday that first-aiders are being used to answer 999 calls instead of ambulance paramedics.

The new ‘Emergency Care Assistants’ receive only a few weeks training – paramedics train for three years and are not allowed to give life-saving drugs.

Ambulance services are increasingly turning to the first-aiders as they phase out skilled ambulance technicians in a bid to meet NHS cost cuts, says the GMB.

‘The public are being misled into thinking paramedics answer 999 calls when, in fact, they get someone who has no more than advanced first aid skills,’ said GMB spokesman Tony Hughes.

He added: ‘The ECAs don’t have the skills of a paramedic or a technician. They’re embarrassed when they go to 999 calls they can’t handle.’