Publish 7-day NHS plan – BMA challenges Cameron

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THE BMA yesterday called on David Cameron to set out the detail of his plans for more seven-day NHS services.

The BMA said: ‘Since announcing his plans in the Spring to introduce what he described as the world’s first “truly seven-day NHS”, the prime minister has so far failed to give any detail or outline how he plans to fund or deliver on his ambition.

‘Instead, doctors have had their professionalism and dedication to patients repeatedly called into question at a time when NHS staff, as highlighted by the recent social media campaign, are already providing a first-class service, every day of the week.

‘The BMA has made clear that it supports more seven-day hospital services and that patients should receive the same high standard of care across the week. However, we have rightly and repeatedly raised legitimate concerns over how the government expects the NHS to fund and staff it, and what impact it could have on mid-week services.

‘In his speech on seven-day services in May, David Cameron used the word “plan” 18 times but has so far signally failed to produce one. So the BMA, starting today, is publicly asking David Cameron seven key questions over seven days, starting with: “When will the prime minister define what he means by a ‘truly seven-day NHS?”.’

Dr Mark Porter, BMA council chairman, said: ‘The BMA has been quite clear that it supports more seven-day hospital services and that patients should receive the same high standard of care across the week, but we have also raised repeated concerns about the lack of detail and the apparent absence of any plan as to how the government intends to deliver this.

‘David Cameron promised a “truly seven-day NHS” before and after the general election, even going as far as to use the word “plan” 18 times in one speech, but has so far signally failed to produce one. There has been no detail to define what he means, how the NHS can fund and staff it, and its impact on weekday services.

‘Instead, showing more regard for headline-grabbing soundbites than plans, the government has gone out of its way to deliberately misrepresent the excellent care NHS staff already provide every day of the week. We already know that nine in ten consultants work evenings and weekends for the NHS, that over 60 per cent of GPs regularly work outside of their normal hours and that junior doctors continue to work around the clock providing care for their patients, including in some cases examples of doctors working days on end or 90-hour weeks.

‘It is not just doctors wanting answers. A recent public survey showed that two thirds of respondents do not believe the NHS can currently afford seven-day services in hospitals, while three quarters do not want to see a reduction in mid-week services. Given the current funding squeeze on NHS Trusts, the only way for many hospitals to increase the number of doctors over the weekend would be to reduce the number of doctors providing elective care during the week. If that is what David Cameron means by a “truly seven-day NHS”, then he should say so.

‘And with the latest figures showing a rise in the number of graduates turning their back on general practice, the prime minister needs to be honest with the public. The government’s pre-election pledge to recruit 5,000 GPs to open all surgeries over seven days – rowed back on after the election – has been shown to be mere rhetoric and completely undeliverable on the ground.’